Indian-origin scientist from Pune named as “first-named inventor” for Moderna’s COVID vaccine


When it was introduced, Moderna’s Covid vaccine was hailed as a revolutionary invention of making vaccines, which used the RNA technique. In addition, this is the first of its kind to be used at this scale, making it a historic moment for the medical community.

The primary contributor person behind this crucial invention of this era is Mihir Metkar, an Indian-origin scientist.

In order to develop these vaccines, researchers took the RNA-based genetic sequence of the coronavirus and turned it into DNA. This crucial step allowed them to identify the “instructions” necessary to create the spike protein, engineer corresponding synthetic mRNA and package that into their vaccines.

Metkar, a Pune-educated bioinformatics scientist was named as the “first-named inventor”, a designation that usually recognizes the primary contributor to the invention, as Moderna is in the process of filing a patent application for the vaccine.

In addition to that, Metkar 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 shot is of the new class of vaccines that use 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.

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 program 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.

The patent document naming Metkar as the “first-named inventor” was filed on behalf of Moderna by an intellectual property law firm asserted that the three NIH scientists who collaborated with them should not be considered co-inventors as the NIH has asked.

If the NIH scientists are recognized as co-inventors, the NIH and the government may be entitled to receive a share of royalties from the use of the patents and also be able to allow others to make the vaccine.

An NGO, Public Citizen, has pointed out in a letter to the head of the NIH that co-ownership of the patent “can empower the US government to authorize” other manufacturers around the world to use some of the patents to make the vaccine.

The group said that with “huge gaps in global vaccine access” the need for the government to exercise control over the vaccine technology “only grows more urgent”.