Medical Technology

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Dispute Head to Court, US NIH Head Says

CHICAGO (Reuters – U.S. National Institutes of Health scientists were “a major factor” in the development of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccination. The agency is planning to defend its claim that it is co-owner of patents related to this shot, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH, told Reuters on Wednesday.

In a story first reported by the New York Times on Tuesday, Moderna excluded three NIH scientists as co-inventors of the central patent that covers the multibillion-dollar COVID-19 vaccine in its application submitted in July.

“I think Moderna has made a serious mistake in not providing the type of co-inventorship credit to people who played a key part in the development of the vaccine that they’re now making a fair amount of money from,” Collins said in an interview ahead of the Reuters Total Health conference, which will run virtually from November. 15-18.

Moderna expects 2021 sales between $15 billion and $18 billion for the COVID-19 vaccine, its first and sole commercial product, and as high as $22 million in the next year.

Collins said that the agency has been trying to resolve the patent conflict with Moderna amicably for some time and has failed.

“But we aren’t done. Clearly this is something that legal authorities will have to figure out,” he said.

NIH has claimed that three of its scientists – Dr. John Mascola, Dr. Barney Graham and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett – helped in the creation of the genetic sequence in Moderna’s vaccine. These scientists should be listed on the patent application. Graham has since retired and Corbett is now working at Harvard.

Collins told Reuters that it’s not a good idea to file a patent to be filed if you leave out important inventors.

“I didn’t expect that to be the outcome of what had been an extremely collaborative effort between scientists from Moderna and NIH over a long period of time.”

Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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