ModernaTx, Inc. v. Arbutus Biopharma Corp., No. 20-2329 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Arbutus's patent, directed to “stable nucleic acid-lipid particles (SNALP) comprising a nucleic acid (such as one or more interfering RNA), methods of making the SNALP, and methods of delivering and/or administering the SNALP,” describes the invention as “novel, serum-stable lipid particles comprising one or more active agents or therapeutic agents, methods of making the lipid particles, and methods of delivering and/or administering the lipid particles (e.g., for the treatment of a disease or disorder)”; “[t]he present invention is based, in part, upon the surprising discovery that lipid particles comprising … provide advantages when used for the in vitro or in vivo delivery of an active agent, such as a therapeutic nucleic acid (e.g., an interfering RNA)”; the particles are “stable in circulation, e.g., resistant to degradation by nucleases in serum and are substantially non-toxic” to humans.
On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board held that the claims of the patent are not unpatentable as obvious. The Federal Circuit affirmed, first holding that that Moderna could pursue its appeal based on the risk of an infringement suit. Substantial evidence—including prior art and expert testimony—supports a finding that optimizing the four interdependent lipid components in prior art nucleic acid-lipid particles would not have been routine, and Moderna’s proposed adjustments to the lipid components are hindsight driven.