Moderna shares fall after judge sides with Arbutus in patent fight

(Reuters) -Shares of Moderna fell 4% on Wednesday after a U.S. judge issued an order that strengthened Arbutus’ arguments in a patent infringement lawsuit related to Moderna’s blockbuster COVID-19 vaccines.

Roivant’s shares gained 4% in afternoon trading, while its subsidiary Arbutus rose more than 17%.

In a so-called “claim construction order”, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg interpreted parts of the patents in ways that strengthened Arbutus’ case, rejecting Moderna’s proposed definitions.

The order is relevant in determining whether Moderna’s vaccines are covered by Arbutus’ patented technology.

“He ruled in favor of Roivant subsidiary Arbutus on 3 of 4 patent claims…It is our understanding Moderna can’t appeal for now since this isn’t a formal ‘judgment’ but rather a ‘decision’”, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

Moderna and Arbutus did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2022, has Arbutus seeking damages for infringement of U.S. patents related to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Arbutus said it developed the so-called lipid nanoparticles that enclose the vaccine’s mRNA payload, the patents related to which were licensed to Genevant Sciences, a joint venture between Arbutus and Roivant Sciences Ltd.

The technology is used to deliver RNA to target cells without being attacked by the body’s immune system.

A trial in the case is currently set to begin next April.

(Reporting by Christy Santhosh in Bengaluru and Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Krishna Chandra Eluri)