(Reuters) – Biotech firm Promosome LLC sued Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech in federal court in San Diego, California, on Tuesday, accusing their COVID-19 vaccines of infringing a patent related to messenger RNA technology.
The lawsuits add to a web of patent disputes between biotech companies over technology used in the coronavirus shots, including a case brought last year in Massachusetts by Moderna against Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
Promosome accused the companies of copying technology that allows for doses of mRNA that are small enough to use safely and effectively in the vaccines.
Promosome asked the court for a share of royalties from the shots. Pfizer earned $37.8 billion from sales of its COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty last year, while Moderna made $18.4 billion from its vaccine Spikevax.
Representatives of Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.
Promosome attorney Bill Carmody said in a statement that the vaccine makers have “failed to give Promosome what it deserves” for creating groundbreaking technology.
San Diego and New York-based Promosome was formed to commercialize technology developed by biochemistry researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
The vaccines use mRNA to send instructions to the immune system for producing specific proteins to fight the COVID-19 virus. Promosome said its technology enables the immune system to produce sufficient proteins to fight the virus with small doses of mRNA.
The lawsuits said Promosome met with Moderna between 2013 and 2016 to discuss licensing the technology and that Promosome’s president demonstrated it to a senior BioNTech scientist in 2015. Promosome said neither company agreed to a license.
Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech in the past have denied infringing other patents.
(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by David Bario and Matthew Lewis)
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