German biopharmaceutical company CureVac sued BioNTech on Tuesday, seeking “fair compensation” for alleged infringement of intellectual property rights related to the mRNA technology that was used to develop Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.
“The CureVac intellectual property portfolio protects multiple inventions that are considered essential to the design and development of BioNTech’s SARS CoV-2 mRNA vaccine, among others,” CureVac said in a statement on Tuesday.
BioNTech said that the company will “vigorously defend” its work “against all allegations of patent infringement.”
“We are aware that it is not unusual that other companies in the pharmaceutical industry, having witnessed the success of COMIRNATY®, are now suggesting that the vaccine potentially infringes their intellectual property rights,” the German company said in a statement.
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BioNtech originally partnered with Pfizer to develop an mRNA-based flu vaccine in 2018, but pivoted to a vaccine for the novel coronavirus at the outset of the pandemic in early 2020.
CureVac has been trying to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine and started a clinical trial for a second-generation vaccine candidate earlier this year in partnership with British company GSK.
CureVac said that its intellectual property portfolio includes multiple inventions related to the engineering mRNA molecules, such as “sequence modifications to increase stability and enhance protein expression, as well as mRNA vaccine formulations specific to SARS CoV-2 vaccines.”
The company said it will not seek an injunction or try to stop the production of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine while the lawsuit plays out in German courts.
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Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.