Moderna finds itself in a controversial legal dispute with the U.S government and intense public criticism after filing a patent claiming sole ownership of the Covid-19 vaccine and not including the names of any of its NIH scientific collaborators.
A popularly held belief is the federal government has an actual stake in this vaccine, and that the U.S. government could try to make the vaccine a free or low-cost public good with wide distribution, if the product turns out to be safe and effective.
If the current patent submission is approved by the Patent office it would give Moderna sole control over which companies can manufacture the vaccine and which countries are granted access to it. It would also have monetary implications even the public’s ability to afford treatment.
The patent office will not decide whether the government should be on the patent. The patent office will only determine whether a patent is warranted.
The New York Times reported that when Moderna filed for patent, it reached the good-faith determination that its scientists alone invented the genetic sequence that prompts an immune response. Moderna refutes any claim that scientists from the NIH coinvented.
Moderna claims its scientists were the sole inventors of the crucial component of the vaccine.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, research on both coronaviruses and vaccine candidates against emerging pathogens was a priority for agencies operating in the public health space.
The government has assisted Moderna since 2015 when Moderna signed a cooperative research and development agreement with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for basic research, including the development of new vaccines.
It is no surprise that the U.S. government and tax payers are angered given the significant funding that Moderna has received including support from state scientists that Moderna recently announced it had filed COVID-19 vaccine patents, leaving off the names of the government-funded scientists from the NIH.
This is a developing story.