Moderna and US Govt Fight for Vaccine Patent Rights

In a shocking report from the New York Times (NYT), the United States government has been battling with Moderna for over a year. The fight is over the patent rights to the Moderna vaccine.

The report also revealed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) partnered with Moderna despite never producing a product.

The conflict “has broad implications for the vaccine’s long-term distribution and billions of dollars in future profits.”

The shot was called the “NIH-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine” internally and resulted from a four-year collaboration between the NIH and Moderna. 

The NIH is the government’s biomedical research team and claims that three of their doctors went unlisted on the patent application that Moderna secretly filed over the summer of 2020. 

NYT reports:

“Dr. John R. Mascola, the center’s director; Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who is now at Harvard — worked with Moderna scientists to design the genetic sequence that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named on the ‘principal patent application.’ “

Not only does Moderna not agree, but the company also explained to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that it had “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the component in question. 

If the federal government succeeds in adding its scientists to the patent, they would have more say in which companies manufacture the vaccine and which countries get access. It would also secure “a nearly unfettered right to license the technology,” ushering millions of dollars into the federal treasury.

If Moderna retains full patent rights, they will have sole discretion in who receives their vaccines. It pledged not to enforce its Covid vaccine patents during the pandemic.

A patent has yet to be issued. If the two don’t settle before the USPTO makes it formal and final, it will be up to the United States government to pursue costly legal action.

Moderna and the government worked together on projects involving other coronaviruses when the new one emerged in China. In January 2020, NIH and Moderna “agreed to collaborate and jointly develop” a vaccine. Six months later, Moderna filed the patent without a word to their government partner.

Upon further inspection, the earliest Moderna patent listed is from 2018. A search on the USPTO website reveals patent application number 20130115272 from 2013 under the same name but written “modeRNA” instead. 

This information suggests that the company has been in operation for nearly a decade.

According to the NYT:

“Moderna, a young company that had never before brought a product to market, became a household name virtually overnight. The vaccine is on track to bring in up to $18 billion in revenue for Moderna this year. The company has already booked deals for next year worth up to $20 billion. Sales of its vaccine both this year and next are likely to rank among the highest in a single year for any medical product in history.”

It just makes sense that, unbeknownst to the federal government, Moderna would quickly file the necessary legal documents to secure this massive payday. The vaccine has been a cash cow, as evidenced by the debut of Moderna’s two founders on Forbes’ list of 400 richest Americans

It’s no surprise that Uncle Sam wants a share of the bounty, too.

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