Alnylam sues Moderna and Pfizer over key vaccine ingredient

pharmafile | March 23, 2022 | News story | Research and Development  

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, has sued Moderna and Pfizer over allegations that the firms used patented nanoparticle technology in COVID-19 vaccines.

Alnylam is an RNA therapies pioneer, and claims that the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines from pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer infringe on a patented technology, key to the function of these products and the way that they are able to be delivered to the body, breaking down without causing toxic effects.

“The lipid nanoparticles are crucial,” said Mansoor Amiji, a pharmaceutical scientist at Northeastern University. “It is because we have these lipid nanoparticles that mRNA vaccines became a reality.” Lipid nanoparticles allow the large and delicate mRNA molecule to enter cells, shielding the molecule from destructive enzymes at the perimeters of cells. The lawsuits center on particular ingredients and ratios used in the COVID-19 vaccines, as lipid nanoparticles are made from specific ratios of four kinds of fat molecules.

“Alnylam is seeking fair compensation for use of its technology based on patent claims to a broad class of biodegradable lipids invented over a decade ago resulting from extensive research and investment,” the company wrote in a statement. “The company is proud that this work has supported rapid development of the life-saving vaccines.”

Alnylam has filed separate lawsuits against both companies, and is asking for an undisclosed amount of money in damages. Pfizer and Moderna have both been vocally opposed to lifting patent rights for their vaccines, to make the jabs more available and affordable in the developing world.

Moderna is additionally facing a lawsuit from the National Institute of Health (NIH), as well as two small Vancouver-based biopharmaceutical firms. The NIH claims that the creation of the vaccine was a collaborative project between the agency and Moderna. The company meanwhile declined to include three NIH scientists on its patent application for the mRNA sequence that forms the basis of the vaccine.

“We seek fair compensation for Moderna’s use of our patented technology that was developed with great effort and at great expense, without which Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine would not have been successful,” William Collier, CEO of Arbutus, said in a statement.

Ana Ovey

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