Pfizer and Moderna sued by San Diego researchers over allegedly stolen mRNA tech

(Photo by THOMAS LOHNES/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
4:46 PM – Thursday, June 8, 2023

In complaints filed on Tuesday, Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech are being accused of stealing a patented method developed by researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego that allowed for the creation of the COVID-19 vaccine.


Promosome LLC has filed two separate patent infringement cases in federal court, one against Moderna for its Spikevax vaccine and one against Pfizer and its partner BioNTech for their Comirnaty vaccine.

The company, which has offices in San Diego and New York City, develops and commercializes discoveries made by late Nobel Prize laureates Vincent Mauro and Gerald Edelman, both of whom worked as researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, an area in San Diego.

Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech could not be reached for comment on the case as of late Tuesday.

An innovative approach for altering messenger RNA, known as mRNA, that gives a cell instructions for producing proteins, is the subject of the patent at the center of the allegations. The researchers’ innovation finally made mRNA vaccinations significantly safer and more successful by assisting the immune system in producing enough proteins to combat the virus with lower dosages of mRNA.

According to the lawsuit, the method was created in 2009 by Scripps scientists Wei Zhou, Stephen Chappell, Edelman, and Mauro.

The biopharmaceutical company’s highest leadership, including CEO Stéphane Bancel and President Stephen Hoge, were allegedly given access to the patented method in 2013 as part of a confidential disclosure agreement, according to the lawsuit filed against Moderna. However, Moderna did not acquire a technological license.

According to the lawsuit filed against Pfizer and BioNTech, Promosome representatives discussed the invention with Dr. Katalin Karikó of BioNTech in 2015, but neither business obtained a license.

Promosome asserts in their complaint that they are entitled “to retrieve its rightful share of the tens-of-billions in revenue.”

According to SEC records, Moderna generated $18.4 billion in revenue last year from the sales of its vaccine. Last year, Pfizer and BioNTech made $37.8 billion from the sale of the COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty.

“Our client’s cutting-edge technology has helped spare hundreds of millions of people from the harmful effects of COVID-19,” said Bill Carmody, head attorney and partner at the firm Susman Godfrey. “Unfortunately, these big pharma companies have failed to give Promosome what it deserves.”

Lawsuits alleging patent infringement are not an unusual occurrence in the fields of biotechnology and medicines. The technology that allowed for the development of COVID-19 vaccinations have been the subject of numerous lawsuits in the past.

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