Legal Correspondent: Praveen Kumar
December 10th, 2021: Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States played a critical role in the development of Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine, which generated significant revenue for the company. According to NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins, the agency is looking forward to defending its claim as co-owner of patents on the shot. According to reports, Moderna left out three NIH scientists when filling out the space for co-inventors of a central patent for the COVID-19 vaccine in its July application. This vaccine served as the company's multibillion-dollar product as well.
"I think Moderna made a serious mistake here in not giving co-inventorship credit to people who played a major role in the development of the vaccine that they're now making a fair amount of money off of," Collins said in an interview.
Moderna anticipates that sales of the COVID-19 vaccine will range between $15 billion and $18 billion in 2021, rising to $22 billion by 2022. Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is the company's first and only commercial product.
Moderna acknowledged in a statement that scientists at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) played a critical role in the development of Moderna's messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. However, the company later stated that it completely disagrees with the agency's patent claims.
"The NIH has been trying for some time to resolve the patent conflict with Moderna amicably and has terribly failed," Collins said. But we're not done yet. Clearly, this is something that the legal authorities will have to work out." The NIH has stated unequivocally that three of the following scientists assisted in the design of the genetic sequence used in Moderna's vaccine:
Dr. John Mascola,
Dr. Barney Graham and
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.
On the patent application, all three of them should be listed as co-inventors. Graham is now retired, while Corbett works at the prestigious Harvard University. "It's not a good idea to file a patent when key inventors are missing, so this will be ironed out as more people look into it. I did not expect that to be the outcome of a long-term friendly and collaborative effort between scientists at the NIH and Moderna "Collins stated.
"We do not agree that NIAID scientists co-invented claims to the mRNA-1273 sequence itself," Moderna said in a statement. Only Moderna's scientists developed the mRNA sequence used in our vaccine.In other patent applications, such as those relating to dosing, the company has acknowledged NIH scientists. However, under the strict rules of US patent law, Moderna is only required to list Moderna scientists as the sequence's inventors for the core patent. We are grateful for our collaboration with NIH scientists, appreciate their contributions, and will continue to collaborate to help patients."
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