CureVac sues BioNTech over mRNA intellectual property

July 5, 2022

CureVac is suing BioNTech and two subsidiaries over mRNA intellectual property infringement, claiming its patents were used to manufacture and sell the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID jab.

In the announcement shared today, CureVac emphasizes that it has been developing “proprietary foundational technology related to mRNA design, delivery and manufacturing that materially contributed to the development of safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines”  — specifically referring to Comirnaty, developed jointly by BioNTech and Pfizer — and the rival vaccine maker is now seeking appropriate compensation.

CureVac argues that its intellectual property portfolio [EP 1 857 122 B1, DE 20 2015 009 961 U, DE 20 2021 003 575 U1 and DE 20 2015 009 974 U] includes and protects inventions that are crucial to the design and development of BioNTech’s COVID mRNA vaccine, and many others. In the statement, CureVac says that the inventions include mechanisms to better engineer the mRNA molecules, including sequence modifications that increase stability and enhance protein expression.

Founded in 2000, CureVac’s slogan is ‘the RNA people.’ In July 2020, CureVac partnered with GSK to develop vaccines based on CureVac’s second-generation mRNA technology, which was later extended to include the development of second-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidates and modified mRNA vaccine technologies. The deal also involved GSK investing $34k for manufacturing capacity reservation, upon certification of CureVac’s commercial-scale manufacturing facility currently under construction in Germany.

BioNTech isn't the first to face patent infringement allegations surrounding COVID vaccines. Earlier this year, Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences filed a patent-infringement lawsuit in Delaware federal court, saying that Moderna’s rapid transition from “lab bench to [patient] arms” was possible because of Moderna’s use of revolutionary liquid nanoparticle technology that Arbutus had already created and patented.