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Mordena disputes vaccine copyright with the US government

The US National Institutes of Health announced its participation in the development of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, but the pharmaceutical company excluded government scientists from the patent.

US pharmaceutical company Moderna on November 9 applied for a patent for a Covid-19 vaccine based on its messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. However, when reviewing these applications, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that Moderna had removed the names of scientists from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) from some of its patents.

Moderna’s actions contradict the NIH’s claim that its scientists worked closely with Moderna at the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic to develop a vaccine.

The NIH has filed documents with the US Patent and Trademark Office, claiming three of its scientists, including Barney Graham, lead vaccine researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). , invented the key ingredients of the Moderna vaccine.

Two bottles of Moderna vaccine at a vaccination site in Connecticut, USA in April. Photo: AFP.

Two vials of Moderna vaccine at a vaccination site in Connecticut, USA in April. Photo: AFP.

Moderna acknowledges this, but insists NIH scientists did not co-invent the mRNA technology nor the mRNA components described in the patent application.

Vaccines and drugs are often covered by many patents. In the case of the mRNA vaccine, Moderna applied for four patents, but only recognized the contributions of NIH scientists in one.

Public Citizen calls on the NIH to take action to confirm the role of government scientists in the development of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine. If it is proven that these scientists have a big role in the vaccine development process, the US government will have the power to influence the price and production capacity of the Moderna vaccine in the future.

Moderna has been criticized by global health leaders for not sharing its vaccine formula more widely to tackle vaccine inequality between rich and poor countries. Some groups are calling on the US government to increase pressure to force Moderna to share vaccine technology.

“We ask that you publicly clarify the NIH’s role in vaccine development and explain the steps you intend to take to ensure that the contributions of federal scientists are fully recognized, including legal measures,” Public Citizen wrote in a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins.

NIAID said on Monday that after careful scrutiny, it disagreed with Moderna’s position, insisting NIH scientists should be considered the inventors of the vaccine.

“Removing NIH inventors from a patent application deprives the NIH of the benefit of co-ownership,” the agency said. The Times quoted an unnamed government official as saying that the NIH was surprised by Moderna’s patent application.

Last year, the NIH granted a non-exclusive license to several companies to use the spike protein that government scientists had created since January 2020, almost immediately after China announced the genome sequencing of nCoV. . The US government also provides a part of the budget for Moderna’s research, development and production of vaccines, and signs a pre-order agreement.

The dispute between Moderna and the NIH dates back to a dramatic day in January 2020, when government researchers and Moderna scientists worked together to identify the spike protein ingredient used in the vaccine. .

“It all started that day. The Moderna vaccine wouldn’t have been possible without the massive contribution of the US government at every step of the way,” said Zain Rivzi, director of research at Public Citizen.

Huyen Le (Follow Washington Post)

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