Indian origin scientist from Pune named primary contributor to invention of Moderna's Covid vaccine

An Indian-origin scientist has been identified by Moderna as the primary contributor to its Covid-19 vaccine

Arul Louis Nov 10, 2021
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Mihir Metkar has been listed by Moderna as the “first named inventor” of its COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo: LinkedIn)

An Indian-origin scientist has been identified by Moderna as the primary contributor to its Covid-19 vaccine. A filing by the American pharmaceutical company for its patent application for the coronavirus vaccine using the revolutionary RNA technique listed Pune-educated bioinformatics scientist Mihir Metkar as the “first named inventor,” a designation that usually recognises the primary contributor to the invention. He is also listed as one of the inventors in two other Covid-19 vaccine patent applications by Moderna to the US Patent Office.

Moderna's is of the new class of vaccines that use what is called messenger RNA (mRNA) that cause the body to create some proteins similar to that in the Covid-19 virus and trigger the body's immune system to make antibodies that will fight the coronavirus if it invades the body. (Conventional vaccines use either dead viruses or parts of them or a modified version of the gene of a different virus.)

Metkar's identification as the “first named inventor” is in the document filed by Moderna to dispute the US government's National Institutes of Health (NIH) assertion that its scientists should also be credited as inventors of the vaccine, which was developed in collaboration with it and with $1.53 billion provided by the administration of former President Donald Trump under the Operation Warp Speed programme to quickly produce vaccines.

Vladimir Presnyak and Guillaume Stewart-Jones are listed after him in the original application for the patent.

Metkar received his MSc degree from the Institute of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology at the Savitribai Phule Pune University and worked at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune as a project assistant before coming to the United States, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He did his PhD at the RNA Therapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and worked there as a post-doctoral fellow, before joining Moderna in 2018, the profile said.

In a separate patent filing, Moderna listed Sunny Himansu, who has an MBBS degree, as one of the two inventors of the Betacoronavirus Vaccine.

Moderna's vaccine is one of the two main vaccines in the US and about 164 million doses of it have been given so far in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, millions of people have been vaccinated in Europe and elsewhere with the Moderna vaccine (SAM)