WHO hired company to copy Moderna

The World Health Organization has hired the company, called Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, as part of a $100 million plan to figure out how to make an mRNA vaccine against COVID that is as close as possible to the version produced by Moderna.

As to why WHO has chosen to try to copy Moderna rather than the other mRNA COVID vaccine, which is made by Pfizer BioNTech, Friede says the choice was practical.

“Moderna has reiterated on several occasions that they will not enforce their intellectual property during the pandemic,” says Friede. In other words, a manufacturer probably won’t face a lawsuit for producing a vaccine that’s virtually identical to Moderna’s.

But Afrigen’s Petro Treblanche says there are still a lot of unknowns. Take Moderna’s patent.

“It’s written very carefully and cleverly to not disclose absolutely everything,” says Treblanche.

So while Afrigen has been able to determine most of the equipment and specialized ingredients that are needed, “what we don’t know is the exact concentrations,” says Treblanche. “And we don’t know some of the mixing times — some of the conditions of mixing and formulating.”


The fact that we are in a pandemic situation and we have Moderna not sharing the COVID-19 vaccine recipe makes me uncomfortable. On one hand, I think innovation should be protected and rewarded. In this case, trade is protected for 20 years for the technology that Moderna invented. The question is whether this is ethical to have a company guard their profits at the cost of potential human live losses. Moderna also promises not to enforce their intellectual property during a pandemic which seems kinda reasonable. Moderna also released the genetic sequence but not give the exact procedure to manufacture it.