NIH 'not done' fighting Moderna over Covid vaccine patents, director Francis Collins says
The NIH is standing by its assertion that three of its scientists should be listed in the Moderna patent for the company’s lucrative Covid-19 vaccine.
The spat is part of an ongoing feud between the US government and Moderna that spilled into public view last month when one of President Joe Biden’s top medical advisors called out the company for failing to deliver on its promise to vaccinate more low- and middle-income countries.
“I think Moderna has made a serious mistake here in not providing the kind of co-inventorship credit to the people who played a major role in the development of the vaccine that they are now making a fair amount of money on. We did our best to try to resolve this and ultimately failed but we are not done,” NIH Director Francis Collins told Reuters in an interview yesterday.
An NIH spokesperson clarified that Collins defers to legal authorities on how this patent snafu might be resolved. And he said there are government lawyers looking into this right now.
The prospect of a potential lawsuit from the NIH would be an interesting shift for an agency that has always steered clear of exercising its so-called “march-in” rights, which hypothetically would allow the NIH to challenge patents where the government has helped fund development.
The NIH told the New York Times earlier this week that three of its scientists — John Mascola, Barney Graham, who recently retired, and Kizzmekia Corbett, who has since moved over to Harvard — worked with Moderna to design the genetic sequence that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response.
While the NIH believes these three should be on the patent application, Moderna’s filing from this summer only names the biotech’s employees, and the company said it had “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the component in question, according to the Times.
The NIH’s anger with Moderna comes as the company has accepted billions from US taxpayers to develop its vaccine and enrich its executives, to the point where a few are billionaires now. Moderna will likely haul in tens of billions in more sales from the vaccine over the next two years.