The U.S.-based company Moderna and the U.S. government have closed down the patent on the Covid-19 vaccine company after filing an application that left out the names of three government scientists, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The dispute may ultimately determine whether private companies have intellectual property rights in the volume or if this is allocated to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which will actually determine where billions of dollars in future profits go and whether the US government can move Moderna to help other companies do their product is to address the growing inequality of access to vaccines worldwide.
According to a NYT report, the policy was the culmination of a four-year partnership between Moderna and the NIH, a state-run biomedical research institute. In November 2020, when the results of Moderna’s clinical trial showed great success, the government called it the “vaccine NIH.-Moderna Covid-19.”
The NIH, according to a NYT report, has named three scientists at its vaccine research center – Dr. John R. Mascola, director of the institute; Dr Barney S Graham, recently retired; and Drs. Kizzmekia S Corbett, now based at Harvard – has worked with modern scientists to design a genetic sequence that triggers the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named in the “primary patent application” submitted in July.
In completing the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the company said it had “achieved a good determination that these people did not include” the part in question, the report said.
The patent has not been issued. The app calls a lot of Moderna staff as designers only.
The report quoted NIH representatives as saying the dispute was ongoing. “The NIH does not agree with Moderna’s determination to establish,” said Kathy Stover, spokeswoman for the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). “Exceeding the founders of the NIH in the main patent application deprives the NIH of the patent interest in that application and the patent that will eventually be issued to it.”
Moderna spokeswoman Colleen Hussey told NYT that the company “saw the significant role played by the NIH in developing the Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.” However, he said the company was legally obliged not to include the organization in the basic application, because “only Moderna scientists have developed a vaccine”.
If the NIH scientists were named as co-creators, the organization would generally not need Moderna’s permission to license it to other companies or organizations, which could extend the policy offer at a time when inequality in access was high.
In a statement Tuesday, the World Health Organization noted that only 2.5% of the population in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
But even if they do have a license, manufacturers will lack the essential ingredients to make a modern Vaccine vaccine quickly – including the company’s recipe and technical knowledge, says a NYT report.
Similar vaccine development initiatives have been prominent in India where the state-owned medical research organization, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has assisted the private company Bharat Biotech to develop the Covaxin Covid-19 vaccine. Government officials, including the head of the ICMR, said the organization shared intellectual property rights and gained a 5% dominance, although the company did not make clear its position on the matter.