CureVac Sues Pfizer Partner BioNTech for Patent Infringement After Its Vaccine Fails

CureVac recently revealed that it is taking fellow German mRNA pioneer BioNTech to court for infringement of its intellectual property, a year after the high-profile flop of its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate. It claims BioNTech infringed on its intellectual property by developing the COVID shot Comirnaty with Pfizer.

"There’s a piece of IP which we think has been used. That’s OK. We’re not against using it, especially in a pandemic," said CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas in an interview. "We just want to have this piece of contribution be recognized."

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CureVac is seeking not just recognition but also compensation for the technology it began developing more than 20 years ago, which it claims was critical in the creation of BioNTech’s shot. The company made it clear that it does not wish to disrupt the production, sale, or distribution of BioNTech's vaccine with an injunction.

The lawsuit claims that four patents were infringed, all of which relate to the engineering of mRNA molecules, including “sequence modifications to increase stability and enhance protein expression, as well as mRNA vaccine formulations specific to SARS CoV-2 vaccines,” CureVac said in a release.

A spokesperson for BioNTech told Reuters it is "looking at all legal options” in its response to the lawsuit.

"BioNTech's work is original, and we will vigorously defend it against all allegations of patent infringement," the company wrote in a statement on its website. "However, we are aware that it is not unusual that other companies in the pharmaceutical industry, having witnessed the success of Comirnaty, are now suggesting that the vaccine potentially infringes their intellectual property rights."

BioNTech has been sued in the past for patent infringement in relation to its development of Comirnaty. In October 2020, Allele Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals sued both BioNTech and Pfizer for allegedly testing their vaccine using its mNeonGreen fluorescent protein. This case was not resolved until January of this year.