Moderna and the US National Institutes of Health are fighting over who invented the company's mRNA-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the New York Times reports, adding that the clash could affect vaccine availability, as well as profits.
According to the Washington Post, the dispute centers on how much of a contribution NIH scientists made to the development of the vaccine. The Times writes that the development of the vaccine came out of a four-year partnership between Moderna and the NIH, but that vaccine-related patent filings have largely left off NIH researchers. NIH, it says, argues that three of its researchers worked on the development of the genetic sequence the vaccine uses to elicit an immune response and should be included on some filings, while Moderna says its employees were the sole inventors. The Times adds that fight has been going on behind closed doors more than a year.
"Moderna has all along recognized the substantial role that NIH has played in developing Moderna's coronavirus vaccine," the company says in a statement, according to the Post. But it adds that "only Moderna's scientists designed [the vaccine] mRNA-1273 itself."
Advocacy group Public Citizen has called on NIH to assert its role in the vaccine's development, the Times says. It notes that having a government agency listed on a patent could ease licensing agreements and boost vaccine availability.