COVID-19

Robert Malone, “inventor of RNA vaccines”? Why is it a shortcut

Did Robert Malone “create” the technology used in messenger RNA vaccines? This is what he himself says in a widely circulated text about vaccinating children against Covid-19. In this document, published on December 11, the American scientist argues in particular that Spike proteins are “toxic”, a claim denied by scientific research.

However, the text has been widely shared on social media, where Robert Malone is portrayed as “the inventor of RNA” or as “the inventor of mRNA technology.” An example, here, of an authority argument.

FALSE

If Robert Malone played a role in understanding messenger RNA, his work is part of a scientific line, as described by journalist Fabrice Delaye in his book The Messenger RNA Revolution, Vaccines and New Therapies *. As such, it is difficult to qualify him as the “inventor of RNA vaccines.”

“Dozens and dozens of researchers have contributed” to the development of techniques for the use of messenger RNA, underlines the 20 Minutos science journalist. Before Robert Malone and his work in the late 1980s, scientists have been observing this messenger RNA for almost three decades. In 1961, researchers at the Institut Pasteur proposed the messenger RNA hypothesis and, a year later, experiments confirmed it. If this discovery is important, it is because “then we have the molecule that makes the link between DNA and proteins,” says Fabrice Delaye in his book.

Carries messenger RNA to cells

When Robert Malone began his work, researchers at the time were trying to figure out how to get messenger RNA into cells to make proteins. A few years earlier, in 1978 in Great Britain, a researcher used liposomes, a lipid vesicle, to introduce messenger RNA into these mouse cells.

Robert Malone, then a young researcher at the Salk Institute, will do it first in vitro. He opts to take a synthetic messenger RNA, a technique that makes it possible to more easily reproduce messenger RNA, as well as positively charged lipids. The cultured cell will produce proteins. “Between 1987 and 1990, Robert Malone was involved in research that even started a bit on transfection,” explains Fabrice Delaye. Transfection is the technique that makes it possible to synthesize an RNA that will encode a certain protein. “

Publications in prestigious magazines

This advance is described in an article published in 1989 in the reference journal Pnas and signed jointly with two other researchers. The same year, Robert Malone repeated the experiment, this time with frog embryos. Next, he will carry out the experiment with the muscles of the mice, which will be the subject of a publication in the prestigious journal Nature.

This successful transition from an in vitro experiment, of a cultured cell, to an in vivo experiment, in an organism, “is the contribution” of Robert Malone to the development of future technologies using messenger RNA, develops Fabrice Delaye with 20 minutes.

Use messenger RNA as a treatment?

Robert Malone then perceives that messenger RNA could be used as a “treatment”, recalls Nature in an article published in September 2021. A vision that is not obvious at the time, where the research is more towards DNA and where messenger RNA It is also perceived as “Unstable” by investors. Furthermore, the large-scale manufacture of messenger RNA, necessary for treatment, is still poorly controlled.

Eventually Robert Malone will leave the Salk Institute in the late 1980s around a history of patents. Then he continues to search, as his academic Google page attests, but switches to DNA and other fields of research.

More than thirty years have passed between the publication of Robert Malone’s work and the approval of the Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech messenger RNA vaccines to combat Covid-19. Decades during which research has advanced even further. If Robert Malone’s work opened a door, it is precisely the tests developed by “dozens of researchers” that resulted in the technology currently used to vaccinate.

* Published on September 29 by Odile Jacob editions.

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