CureVac, BioNTech Enter Legal Battle Over mRNA Vaccine Technology

CureVac_Bernd Weissbrod/picture alliance via Getty

Bernd Weissbrod/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

CureVac has filed a lawsuit against BioNTech and two of its subsidiaries for allegedly infringing on its intellectual property rights over mRNA technology used in BioNTech and Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. 

In the case filed in the German Regional Court in Düsseldorf, CureVac is seeking "fair compensation" for infringement, noting that it is neither expecting an injunction nor planning to take legal action that would prevent BioNTech and Pfizer from producing, selling or distributing the drug.

Comirnaty is the duo's mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. BioNTech, in partnership with Pfizer, created Comirnaty in 2020, making it the world's first approved vaccine for COVID-19.

CureVac said that it has been developing foundational technology related to mRNA design, delivery and production over the last 22 years, which contributed to creating efficacious and safe COVID-19 vaccines. Its intellectual property portfolio "protects inventions essential to the BioNTech vaccine's production," CureVac said, highlighting aspects related to the engineering of mRNA molecules and sequence modifications to boost protein expression and stability.

CureVac is seeking acknowledgment of its research and development in the vaccine development space through compensation. The money, if received, would then be reinvested into further R&D of mRNA technology and other current projects to develop next-generation life-saving drugs, the company said. 

"CureVac considers the rapid development of these vaccines a tremendous achievement, with unprecedented positive impact for global public health. This achievement is based on decades of scientific research and innovation, supported by CureVac as the earliest pioneer in mRNA technology. Accordingly, CureVac's intellectual property rights need to be acknowledged and respected," the company stated.

"Many years of our research have also contributed to the success of the mRNA vaccines and made that possible. From our point of view, it is self-evident to respect the associated property rights," Franz-Werner Haas, CEO of BioNTech, said in an interview, according to Reuters

"At the height of the pandemic, it would not have occurred to CureVac to point out patent infringement, but now that there is better control over the pandemic, it believed it was the right time to do so," Haas added. 

Reacting to CureVac's allegation, BioNTech said that it respects the company's intellectual property rights and called it a valid concern. However, the company was also firm in defending its position. 

"[Our] work is original, and we will vigorously defend it against all allegations of patent infringement. 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 stated. 

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