Arbutus Hits Moderna With New Suit Claiming COVID-19 Vaccine Patent(s)

Arbutus Biopharma Corporation ABUS and Genevant have sued Moderna Inc MRNA for infringing on their patent on a lipid nanoparticle platform that they say was crucial to the delivery of Moderna’s widely-used COVID-19 vaccine.

The companies are seeking an award of damages sufficient to compensate Arbutus and Genevant for Moderna’s infringement under 35 U.S.C. §284, in no event less than a reasonable royalty on all infringing sales or other dispositions of Accused Product.

Moderna tried to preempt a lawsuit by asking federal courts to block certain Arbutus patents, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected its attempt late last year.

Genevant and Arbutus emphasized in a statement that they “do not seek an injunction or otherwise to impede the sale, manufacture or distribution of MRNA-1273.”

Also See: Arbutus Biopharma Shares Jump After Achieving First Milestone Under COVID-19 Pact.

In their complaint, Genevant and Arbutus argued that developing a delivery vehicle had been the “biggest technological hurdle” for mRNA-based therapeutics and vaccines.

“Without the LNPs Arbutus invented to safeguard the mRNA and deliver it into cells, the mRNA in Moderna’s vaccine would degrade before ever reaching the cells it needs to enter, and the vaccine would not work,” they wrote.

They said Moderna had licensed Arbutus technology before — but not for the application in COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, Moderna obtained licenses to use Arbutus’s LNP patents for certain mRNA products directed to specific viral targets. But those licenses did not grant Moderna rights to use the technology for products targeting SARS-CoV-2. 

Before it decided to use Arbutus’s technology as a crucial part of its COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna did not ask for a license to do so.

According to Genevant and Arbutus, they were almost forced into the suit as they tried to resolve the dispute without litigation, and yet Moderna, now looking at tens of billions of dollars in profit, has “remained unwilling to pay.”

Price Action: ABUS shares are down 3.68% at $3.14, MRNA stock is down 1.85% at $148.93 during the market session on the last check Monday.

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