- CureVac is suing fellow German vaccine maker BioNTech, claiming the technology its rival used to develop the world’s biggest-selling COVID-19 shot with Pfizer infringed on four patents. CureVac said Tuesday it filed the lawsuit in a German regional court.
- CureVac’s and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines each use messenger RNA technology to trigger an immune response against the coronavirus. Though CureVac scrapped its initial program after disappointing results, it’s now claiming some credit for BioNTech’s shot. In a statement, CureVac said mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 were the result of years of research its scientists helped to pioneer, and its “intellectual property rights need to be acknowledged and respected.”
- The race to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to market fueled interest in CureVac, which obtained funding from the U.S. and German governments and was able to raise another $213 million through an initial public offering on Wall Street. But clinical setbacks have sent shares tumbling from a peak of $136 in early 2021 to around $14 as of Tuesday.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, CureVac was often mentioned in the same breath as BioNTech and Moderna. The potential of its mRNA technology earned ex-CEO Daniel Menichella an invitation to the White House in 2020, when a number of other developers were meeting with former President Donald Trump to talk about the development of preventative shots.
Then CureVac’s vaccine suffered a series of setbacks. The company started its Phase 3 trial in December 2020, much later than its rivals and days after BioNTech’s shot was cleared for use in the U.S.
The delay proved costly. Study results showed CureVac’s vaccine was only 47% effective at preventing COVID-19, versus the more than 90% efficacy rate achieved by both Moderna and BioNTech. The company blamed the rise of more evasive variants, although some experts cited the possibility that tweaks Moderna and BioNTech made to their shots, and CureVac didn’t, may have led to different results.
CureVac has since gone back to the drawing board, developing a newer shot with partner GSK that its says produces an “earlier and stronger immune response.” But its future is uncertain, with several vaccines now available and new variant-specific boosters on the way. The new vaccine was in a Phase 1 trial at the end of May.
CureVac didn’t state how much money it is seeking from BioNTech in its lawsuit. But even if it’s successful, the company won’t “seek an injunction nor intend to take legal action that impedes” the manufacturing and distribution of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, called Comirnaty.