Moderna backtracks on planned flu vaccine patent deal

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Moderna is fighting U.S. authorities for the rights to develop a flu vaccine Image caption The situation highlights the hurdles drug companies face in bringing new drugs to market…

Moderna backtracks on planned flu vaccine patent deal

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Moderna is fighting U.S. authorities for the rights to develop a flu vaccine Image caption The situation highlights the hurdles drug companies face in bringing new drugs to market Image caption The US system does not favour expensive research for new drugs but subjects companies to often complex patent disputes Image caption Moderna is seeking “disallowance” for its patent and says it will later use its own vaccine

Faced with a patent lawsuit from a rival over potential new vaccine technologies, biotech company Moderna says it plans to fight the claim vigorously.

The drugs firm said it wants to fight for rights to develop a range of vaccines, including a possible influenza vaccine.

Moderna and the United States government have tried to reach an agreement over the patent, but have failed.

The government said on Monday it would encourage Moderna to develop a vaccine on its own, but Moderna said the government “neglected to say what those immunological potentials are”.

It added it was not convinced the process for developing an influenza vaccine would be “frequent enough to provide (Moderna) with enough time to develop its proprietary vaccines”.

Moderna’s project could potentially double the immunity of people as it unleashes a powerful army of immune cells, the UK’s chief medical officer Sally Davies said in February.

She said having this latent immune system could prevent flu, and even HIV, from causing illness, by releasing a newly developed immune-boosting molecule.

The company believes that this is a better way to treat severe inflammation in patients with conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

According to Moderna, a range of new vaccines are in the works.

It said the government was “only” seeking to create a vaccine which would only protect against the flu virus, and which would also conflict with Moderna’s aim to develop one that would protect against many infectious diseases.

Moderna is also trying to reach a licensing agreement with the government to test the groundbreaking technology on humans.

“We believe we can negotiate these terms after successfully demonstrating the technology in early clinical trials.”

A biotech industry representative told the BBC that “these kinds of fights are quite common”.

“Everyone is trying to profit out of any technology that might go into vaccines. They have a proprietary claim and believe they have the science in a way that’s better than any other player.”

Moderna chief executive Evgeny Morozov accused US authorities of being against immunology discoveries, even though many firms were unprofitable and most benefited society.

“If a modern influenza vaccine is demonstrated to be effective in this study, it’s a guarantee that the governments of every country in the world will require that a modern influenza vaccine be developed and produced,” he told the BBC.

“The fact that the US government does not want to give us this mandate does not make it any more useful for them.

“This is not a powerful veto. If they are not interested in giving us a mandate, we should negotiate a deal that allows us to test this vaccine.”

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