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Moderna Faces Hurdle With Coronavirus Vaccine As Court Refuses To Invalidate Arbutus Patent

Shivdeep Dhaliwal
·2 min read
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Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA) has lost the bid to invalidate a key patent related to the development of several of its next-generation vaccines, including one meant for coronavirus, to Arbutus Biopharma Corp (NASDAQ: ABUS), Reuters reported.

The Massachusetts-headquartered company’s contention that the ‘069 patent, related to the technology for delivering mRNA vaccines, owned by Arbutus described obvious concepts was rejected by an administrative court under the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday.

The patent is supposedly related to lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology, which helps the human body create its own therapeutic proteins.

A patent lawyer, Zachary Silbersher, told Reuters it was not clear if vaccines developed by Moderna, including the one for COVID-19, infringed upon the Arbutus patent, but efforts by Moderna to invalidate the ‘069 patent indicate that the biotechnology company sees it as an obstacle.

“At the end of the day, Arbutus might be able to claim a royalty in the [COVID-19] vaccine,” Silbersher said.

SVB Leerink analysts said Moderna is unlikely to see any immediate financial impact from the patent ruling.

The pharmaceutical company can appeal the court’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, however, chance of a success is limited.

Several companies have reported positive developments on the COVID-19 vaccine, the latest being AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN), which is working with Oxford University.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) said it was beginning late-stage human trials for its coronavirus vaccine, while two vaccine candidates from Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) and its German partner BioNTech SE (NASDAQ: BNTX) are also under fast-track development.

The court’s decision caused Moderna shares to drop nearly 10% to $75.33 and Arbutus’s to surge by almost 120% to $6.20 on Thursday’s closing.

In the after-hours session, Moderna shares slipped by a further 3% to $73.09 while Arbutus shares gained 18.9% to $7.37.

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