A new front has opened in the patent battle over the breakthrough mRNA technology. CureVac in July filed suit in the German Regional Court against BioNTech, seeking fair compensation for infringement of four patents CureVac claims are used to make Comirnaty, the coronavirus vaccine developed and sold by BioNTech and its partner Pfizer. The Tübingen, Germany–based CureVac, whose own mRNA vaccine stalled a year ago after showing just 47% efficacy against COVID-19 in a late-stage trial, said it was not seeking an injunction, nor did it intend to halt the manufacture, sale or distribution of Comirnaty. CureVac’s intellectual property portfolio, accumulated over more than 20 years of work in mRNA technology, protects several inventions the company considers foundational to the design and development of BioNTech’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, including those relating to the engineering of mRNA molecules — sequence modifications to increase stability and enhance protein expression — as well as mRNA vaccine formulations specific to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. “Many years of our research have also contributed to the success of the mRNA vaccines and made that possible,” says CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas. “From our point of view, it is self-evident to respect the associated property rights.” In response, BioNTech posted a statement on its website that read, in part: “BioNTech’s work is original, and we will vigorously defend it against all allegations of patent infringement.”
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mRNA vaccine maker Moderna is also fending off lawsuits over its COVID-19 vaccine from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences.