Canadian biopharmaceutical company Arbutus Biopharma together with its licensee Genevant Sciences has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Pfizer and BioNTech.

The companies filed the lawsuit with the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, over the infringement of a few of their US Patents related to Covid-19 mRNA-LNP vaccines.

The patents cover Arbutus and Genevant’s nucleic acid-lipid particles, their composition, manufacture, delivery, and usage methods.

In the lawsuit, the companies accused Pfizer and BioNTech of using their patented lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technologies, without any license.

The companies seek compensation for the unlicensed use, saying Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines would not have been successful without their LNP delivery technologies.

Arbutus president and CEO William Collier said: “During the pandemic, there was an urgent need for LNP technologies to deliver mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines to cells in the human body.

“We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech could not have created and manufactured effective vaccines at such an unprecedented speed without the existing, proven and patented LNP technologies owned by Arbutus and licensed to Genevant.

“Therefore, we are pursuing legal action against both Pfizer and BioNTech for the unlicensed use of our patented technologies in their Covid-19 vaccines.”

Arbutus said that scientists easily created mRNA molecules, but struggled to develop a delivery mechanism that ensures the safe and effective engagement of mRNA molecules with human cells.

Their scientists, many of whom are currently at Genevant, developed and refined LNP delivery technologies, for which they were awarded many patents.

The company’s LNP technologies are based on microscopic particles built from four carefully selected types of fat-like molecules that shelter and protect fragile RNA molecules.

Arbutus said that their invention of microscopic particles, known as lipid nanoparticles, was a major achievement, as the RNA would rapidly degrade and turn ineffective.

In February last year, Arbutus and Genevant filed a lawsuit against Moderna, over infringement of their US patents in relation to its Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273.