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Here's Why Moderna Doesn't Need IP Protection for Its COVID-19 Vaccine

By Taylor Carmichael - Updated Jun 26, 2021 at 9:27PM

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Moderna waived its IP rights in its vaccine candidate last year. But no company has tried to make a generic version of its mRNA vaccine.

In May, the Biden administration announced that it supported waiving all patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines in the negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO). If all 164 signatories to the World Trade Organization agree with this position, there will be no patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines. That would mean that any drug company could start offering generic versions of the vaccines.

At least one company, Moderna (MRNA -0.37%), is not at all concerned. In fact, Moderna already waived its own property rights to its COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic last year. In this Fool Live clip, recorded on May 14, healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina and writer Taylor Carmichael discuss why the WTO's patent negotiations aren't very relevant to Moderna.

Taylor Carmichael: The other interesting thing, at least in Moderna's case, the vaccine technology, the mRNA technology is very hard to do. Moderna does not thank that any generic is going to be able to do what they do. They have actually said since last year, we're not protecting our IP rights. If anybody wants to create our drug, go ahead and do it. Which is an open invitation to any generic company in the world -- go ahead and start making Moderna's drug. And none of them have taken them up on that. There's not enough scientists who understand how to make these drugs and it's difficult technology know-how, and there's no manufacturing capacity that's not being used. It's all being used right now. We're trying to vaccinate a tremendous number of people in the world. A few billion people we're trying to vaccinate. We've gone basically from nonexistence to trying to produce billions of drugs and that's not an easy thing to do. That is basically what is keeping the distribution from happening in the rest of the world.

Corinne Cardina: So the IP issue would not be a silver bullet to vaccinate the world. It's not probably what's holding us up. That's the tack that Pfizer is taking as well. You mentioned Moderna's strategy with this. Pfizer's CEO has come out and called this a distraction from the real solutions to improve vaccine access. Of course they have an incentive to say that that's not a good solution.

Corinne Cardina owns shares of Moderna Inc. Taylor Carmichael has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Moderna Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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