CureVac files patent case in Germany against BioNTech over mRNA technology

A dose of CureVac vaccine, or placebo, is seen during a study by German biotech firm CureVac as part of testing a new vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Brussels, Belgium March 2, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Hermann/File Photo

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  • CureVac seeks ‘fair compensation’ for mRNA technology
  • It will not try to stop the distribution of a vaccine against COVID, the sale
  • BioNTech declined to comment

BERLIN, July 5 (Reuters) – CureVac ( 5CV.DE ) has filed a patent case in Germany against BioNTech ( 22UAy.DE ) over its use of mRNA technology, marking one of the first known cases of a company going to court amid of fierce competition to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.

The Germany-based biotech company is seeking “fair compensation” from BioNTech and two subsidiaries for infringement of its intellectual property rights, it said on Tuesday.

When asked in a media call, Chief Executive Franz-Werner Haas did not rule out further legal action against BioNTech partner Pfizer ( PFE.N ) or mRNA vaccine maker Moderna ( MRNA.O ).

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CureVac said its intellectual property rights claims are based on more than two decades of work on mRNA technology, some of which was used by BioNTech and Pfizer to develop and sell their Comirnaty coronavirus vaccine.

“Many years of our research also contributed to the success of mRNA vaccines and made this possible,” Haas told reporters. “From our perspective, it is obvious to respect the associated property rights.”

Vaccines and drugs using mRNA technology instruct human cells to produce therapeutic proteins. Long considered an obscure technology with uncertain prospects, mRNA was first tapped for use in vaccines during the pandemic.

Haas did not provide a value that CureVac, which reported a 2021 loss of 412 million euros ($423 million), would see as fair compensation.

BioNTech expects up to 17 billion euros ($17.5 billion) in vaccine revenue this year, down from last year’s 19 billion as the pandemic eases. Read more

CureVac said it is not seeking an injunction, nor does it intend to take legal action that would prevent the vaccine from being manufactured, sold or distributed.

At the height of the pandemic, CureVac would not have thought to point out patent infringement, but now that there is better control over the pandemic, they felt it was the right time to do so, Haas said.

BioNTech had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

CureVac’s Haas was tight-lipped about potential further legal action, saying a basis was first needed on CureVac’s fair share of product development and sales in Germany and how that would be appropriately valued.

Asked if he would rule out legal action against Moderna, the CEO said: “We’re not ruling anything out. We are looking at it very carefully.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in China, has killed more than 6.3 million people and fueled a race among pharmaceutical companies to be the first to develop a vaccine, with BioNTech and Pfizer coming to dominate the field in the Western world.

After a failed effort to market a COVID-19 vaccine last year, CureVac has stepped up its work with partner GSK ( GSK.L ) on improved versions of the vaccine.

CureVac and GSK said in April that their second-generation vaccine candidate targeting two recent variants of COVID-19 had been shown to be highly effective in preclinical studies in mice. Read more

BioNTech shares fell as much as 4.9% on the news, but regained territory, trading 2% higher at 13:54 GMT. German-listed CureVac shares traded 1% higher after initially rising as much as 4.8%.

The court in Düsseldorf, where CureVac filed its case, declined to comment.

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Reporting by Patricia Weiss; writing by Miranda Murray; editing by Paul Carell, Jason Neely, Barbara Lewis and Tomasz Janowski

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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