Moderna and US health chiefs have become locked in a battle over who gets credit for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.
And when the shot was first introduced during the pandemic, the US government even gave its full title as the “N.I.H.-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.”
Now the NIH says that three scientists, who worked at its Vaccine Research Center, should all be recognised and named on the vaccine’s “principal patent application”, according to The New York Times.
Dr John Mascola, the center’s director; Dr Barney Graham, who is now retired; and Dr Kizzmekia Corbett, who know works at Harvard University, worked alongside Moderna scientists to develop the genetic sequences that make it work, says the NIH.
But Moderna disagrees, and in a July filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office named only its employees as being the inventor of the vaccine.
In the filing the company, which is based in Massachusetts, stated that it had “reached the good-faith determination” that the NIH scientists “did not co-invent” the vaccine.
If the two sides cannot agree on a resolution it could end up in a very public and expensive court battle, with vast sums of future profits on the line.
Moderna, which had not previously marketed any other product, received almost $10bn in taxpayer money from the federal government to develop, test and supply the two-shot vaccine.
And it has $35bn in deals in place for the vaccine through the end of 2022.
If the three government scientists are included in the patent filing, it would give the federal government considerable say in which companies and countries get access to the vaccine and its technology, according to the newspaper.
“NIH disagrees with Moderna’s inventorship determination,” Kathy Stover of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which oversees NIH vaccine research, said in a statement.
“Omitting NIH inventors from the principal patent application deprives NIH. of a co-ownership interest in that application and the patent that will eventually issue from it.”
Moderna spokesperson, Colleen Hussey, said that while the company had “all along recognised the substantial role” played by the NIH, it had excluded the government scientists because “only Moderna’s scientists designed” the vaccine.