Biotech company Moderna, which is conducting a late-stage trial for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidate, said it won’t enforce any patents related to its work for the duration of the pandemic.
The Massachusetts-based company said in an Oct. 8 statement that it “feels a special obligation under the current circumstances to use our resources to bring this pandemic to an end as quickly as possible” and won’t enforce its COVID-19-related rights against vaccine makers using its product to fight the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak.
Saying it is “proud that its mRNA technology is poised to be used to help end the current pandemic,” Moderna also said it would license its vaccine after the outbreak is brought under control.
“Further, to eliminate any perceived IP barriers to vaccine development during the pandemic period, upon request we are also willing to license our intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period,” the company said.
Moderna’s announcement comes after the company received queries from investors about patent enforcement, according to company President Stephen Hoge.
“We’re quite studiously not asserting infringement,” Hoge told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “We’re doing the opposite of creating that kind of anxiety for folks. We’re not interested in using that IP to decrease the number of vaccines available in a pandemic.”
More than 100 COVID-19 vaccines are in development around the world, including ones being fast-tracked under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, which has pledged to produce 300 million doses starting in January 2021. It’s part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 countermeasures, namely a vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
While it typically takes years to develop a vaccine, the administration has invested billions and cut red tape to compress the process into mere months.
Among the promising vaccine candidates are two from Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca/University of Oxford, which were developed by modifying adenoviruses, which cause the common cold.
One candidate, from Merck, Sharpe & Dohme/International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, was developed by modifying vesicular stomatitis virus, which primarily infects livestock.
Another two promising vaccine candidates, from Moderna and BioNTech/Fosun Pharma/Pfizer, are messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA.
“One of the exciting discoveries advanced by Moderna was the combination of mRNA and lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) to make vaccines, and the demonstration of this potential in human clinical trials for 11 different infectious disease vaccines since 2015,” the company said in a statement.
A 135-page document (pdf) posted on Moderna’s website on Sept. 17 provides a detailed description of how the company is conducting its phase-three trial, the final stage before a potential final launch.