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Is a Potential Patent Waiver Bad News for Moderna?

By Adria Cimino - Updated Jun 23, 2021 at 8:30AM

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Several ingredients are needed to make a successful vaccine...

Countries recently have discussed the possibility of waiving rights to vaccine patents during the pandemic. Their goal is to lift vaccine production and make vaccines more widely available. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on May 28, 2021, healthcare and cannabis bureau editor and analyst Olivia Zitkus and contributor Adria Cimino discuss whether a potential patent waiver might cut into sales of Moderna's (MRNA -0.37%) coronavirus vaccine.

Olivia Zitkus: My next question has to do with patent rights, which has been a hot topic lately. Some countries including the U.S. are thinking about backing the idea of waving COVID vaccine patent rights during the pandemic, which understandably makes some investors in these companies a little bit nervous. What's happening here, do you think this represents a big threat to Moderna, if it were to lose its patent rights?

Adria Cimino: Well, actually no. I'll explain. It's really that this situation just concerns the patent. And this opens up the possibility of another company to come in and produce the Moderna vaccine. But there's more to it than that. It's like if someone were to give you instructions for how to build a rocket, and you would need the trained workers, you would need the facilities, you need the machines, and you'd have to test the rocket. You'd have to do all of these things that you couldn't do without all of these parts. The situation today is, especially since the Moderna vaccine is something new -- an mRNA vaccine -- is that there really aren't other players out there who can just say, "O.K., here we go, we've got the facilities, we've got the machines, we've got the trained workers." That doesn't exist right now. It would be really impossible to just have something come out right away. It really isn't a threat. It isn't a threat. There isn't going to be another company that can do this. In fact, Moderna even said last year that they wouldn't enforce their patents during the pandemic. Clearly, they are aware of the situation that they are the only one that can do their vaccine right now, and we have to remember that Moderna themselves, it wasn't an overnight thing. They've been working on this technology for years. People who've been working on it are there, and they're trained. It's not something that just overnight someone could get done. Really it doesn't represent a threat to them. The only thing that is just negative overall for the industry if you just look at the issue, is the idea that it sets a precedent for, well, maybe if they end up doing this, then maybe in the future for something else that could easily be reproduced, they could do the same thing. Then some other competitor could go out there in a month produce this pill or this product. But for Moderna and this particular product, it really is not an issue for them, and so for investors, it really shouldn't represent an issue, either.

Adria Cimino has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Olivia Zitkus owns shares of Moderna Inc. The Motley Fool recommends Moderna Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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