Moderna is suing Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for patent infringement in the development of the first Covid vaccination approved in the United States, Reuters reported.
Moderna claims Pfizer copied technology that they developed years before the Covid pandemic.
After the lawsuit was announced, Pfizer shares fell 1.4 percent and BioNTech fell about 2 percent.
The lawsuit seeks undetermined monetary damages. It is being filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, and in Germany, in the Regional Court of Düsseldorf.
“We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said in the statement announcing the lawsuit.
Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership were two of the first groups to develop a vaccine for the new virus.
Moderna is just a decade old and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It had been an innovator in the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology, which enabled the unprecedented speed at which the Covid vaccination was developed.
Typically the approval process for vaccination takes years, and the technology-enabled this to be done only in months, thanks largely to the breakthrough in mRNA vaccines. These types of vaccinations teach human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response.
BioNTech had also been working in this field when it then partnered with U.S. pharma giant Pfizer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine first to Pfizer/BioNTech in December 2020, then one week later to Moderna.
Moderna’s Covid vaccine is its only commercial product. It has brought in $10.4 billion in revenue this year, compared to Pfizer’s $22 billion.
Moderna says that Pfizer-BioNTech copied mRNA technology without permission, which Moderna patented between 2010 and 2016, well before Covid emerged in 2019 and then spread into a pandemic in 2020.