CureVac vs BioNTech: Pioneer or Bad Loser?

Status: 07/14/2022 08:12

CureVac was once considered a beacon of hope – but BioNTech has won the race for the mRNA vaccine against Covid-19. CureVac now accuses a competitor of patent infringement. What’s behind it?

Cecilia Knodt and Thomas Denzel, SWR

At the beginning of work on the Covid-19 vaccine, then US President Donald Trump expressed great interest in bringing the German research company CureVac to the US. But nothing came of it: the EU entered and the German state became the main shareholder.

Thomas Denzel

But CureVac’s mRNA vaccine has not become a highly anticipated success story. The original vaccine candidate failed in a recent clinical trial – a time when similar BioNTech and Moderna products had long been vaccinated worldwide. The biotechnology company from Tübingen is still trying to get involved in the corona vaccine market. According to CureVac, the company has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against BioNTech in the District Court of Düsseldorf.

Fair recognition of intellectual property

Tübingen handles the intellectual property of four infringed patents. They concern the construction and production of the mRNA sequence required for vaccines. CureVac spokeswoman Sarah Fakih explains: “We clearly see the contribution of CureVac that has allowed BioNTech to get to the market so quickly. We want our contributions to be fairly recognized. ” BioNTech responded to the allegations with a written statement: “BioNTech respects intellectual property rights.

At the start of the pandemic, the two German biotech companies were somewhat of a silent competitor in the global competition for a vaccine. There was a kind of truce. In December 2020, the BioNTech vaccine was finally approved.

Why is CureVac filing a lawsuit now? “At the height of the pandemic, we would not have thought of raising this issue. Global vaccination campaigns, booster vaccinations: we did not want to get involved in these measures. Now that there is better control of the pandemic, then was the right time, ”says a spokesman for Fakih. Fakih said they had no intention of blocking or obstructing access to the vaccine. The company has not filed a court order, is not seeking a patent ban or a production stop.

It’s all about the money and “Hi, We’re Still Here”

So what should CureVac be about? Manuel Kunst is a patent attorney and holds a PhD in biochemistry from Freiburg. He hears from the lawsuit: “They want a piece of cake. CureVac needs money. Other products are already in the making, such as cancer vaccines, and they are also working on secondary COVID-19 vaccines – try this to come to the market and show:” Hi, we are here too. ”

CureVac, once a beacon of hope for the federal government, emerged from the pandemic as a loser. He still hasn’t released the product. While BioNTech is in billions of profits and generated three times the previous year in the first quarter of 2022 alone, CureVac is still loss-making: last year, EUR 412 million before tax. Possible damages or license fees may ensure the survival of CureVac. The Tübingen-based company has yet to disclose how much CureVac expects the “fair wage” required.

patent network

Drug research often protects its own discoveries in the very early stages of research, or even before trials begin. Curevac co-founder Ingmar Hörr registered the first patents for mRNA vaccination technology in 1999, a year before the company was founded. Rolf Hömke of the Association of Research-Based Drug Manufacturers (VFA) notes that patent litigation has escalated in recent years: “Not because companies have become more belligerent, but because the molecules or processes involved have become increasingly more complex. hard to judge where one patent ends and another begins. “

Several patent disputes are pending over approved mRNA vaccines against Covid-19. Attorney Kunst talks about a real patent application network. The American pharmaceutical company Alnylam, which uses mRNA technology to treat disease, sued both BioNTech and Moderna. So CureVac is not the first to go to court.

In most cases, however, patent actions in the pharmaceutical industry ended in an out-of-court settlement. This cannot be excluded in the case of CureVac vs. BioNTech. In any case, CureVac has already achieved one thing: the company has started talking again.

Curevac sees patent rights being infringed by Biontech

Sabine Geipel, SWR Business Department, Jul 5, 2022 6:05 pm

Leave a Comment