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The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists hold a crucial role in developing Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine which also generated huge revenue for the company. The agency is looking forward to defending its claim as co-owner of patents on the shot as per NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins. As per the reports, Moderna excluded three NIH scientists while putting names against the space for co-inventors of a central patent for the COVID-19 vaccine in its application that was filed in the month of July. This vaccine also acted as the company’s multibillion-dollar product.
“I think Moderna has made a serious mistake here is not providing the kind of co-inventorship credit to people who played a major role in the development of the vaccine that they're now making a fair amount of money off of,” Collins said in an interview. Moderna is expecting its 2021 sales to range between $15 billion to $18 billion from the COVID-19 vaccine and up to $22 billion by the year 2022. The COVID-19 vaccine of Moderna is its first and only commercial product.
In a statement, Moderna also acknowledged that scientists at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) played a very important role in developing Moderna’s messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. But later the company said, it completely disagrees with the agency’s patent claims.
Collins said, “The NIH has been trying its best to resolve the patent conflict with Moderna amicably for some time and has terribly failed. But we are not done. Clearly, this is something that legal authorities are going to have to figure out.” NIH has clearly asserted that three of the following scientists helped in designing the genetic sequence that is used in Moderna's vaccine:
- Dr. John Mascola,
- Dr. Barney Graham and
- Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.
All three of them should be mentioned as co-inventors on the patent application. Graham is now a retired person while Corbett is working at prestigious Harvard. "It's not a good idea to file a patent when you leave out important inventors, and so this is going to get sorted as people look harder at this. I did not expect that to be the outcome from what had been a very friendly, collaborative effort between scientists at NIH and Moderna over many years," said Collins.
In its statement, Moderna said, “We do not agree that NIAID scientists co-invented claims to the mRNA-1273 sequence itself. Only Moderna’s scientists came up with the sequence for the mRNA used in our vaccine. The company has acknowledged NIH scientists in other patent applications, such as those related to dosing. But for the core patent, Moderna is only required to list Moderna scientists as inventors of the sequence under the strict rules of U.S. patent law. We are grateful for our collaboration with NIH scientists, value their contributions, and remain focused on working together to help patients.”
If these scientists really had a role in developing the COVID-19 Vaccine, then they are liable to be given credit by mentioning their names in the patent application.