Why it is difficult to call Robert Malone « inventor of RNA vaccines »


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

The text has however been widely shared on social networks, where Robert Malone is presented as « the inventor of RNA » or as « the inventor of mRNA technology ». An example, here, of an authority argument.

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If Robert Malone did play a role in the knowledge of messenger RNA, his work is part of a scientific lineage, as the journalist Fabrice Delaye describes in his book The Messenger RNA Revolution, vaccines and new therapies *. As such, it is difficult to qualify him as “inventor of RNA vaccines”.

« Dozens and dozens of researchers have contributed » to the development of techniques for using messenger RNA, emphasizes to 20 Minutes the science journalist. Before Robert Malone and his work in the late 1980s, scientists have been looking at this messenger RNA for almost three decades. In 1961, researchers at the Institut Pasteur put forward the hypothesis of messenger RNA, then, a year later, experiments confirmed it. If this discovery is important, it is because « we then hold the molecule which makes the link between DNA and proteins », points out Fabrice Delaye in his book.

Bring messenger RNA into cells

When Robert Malone began his work, researchers at the time were trying to find out how to get messenger RNA into cells to produce proteins. A few years earlier, in 1978 in Great Britain, a researcher used liposomes, a vesicle with lipids, 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 chooses him to take a synthetic messenger RNA, a technique that makes it possible to reproduce messenger RNA more easily, as well as positively charged lipids. The cultured cell will then produce proteins. “Between 1987 and 1990, Robert Malone took part in research that he even initiated a little on transfection, explains Fabrice Delaye. Transfection is the technique which makes it possible to synthesize an RNA which will encode a certain protein. « 

Publications in prestigious journals

This advance is described in an article published in 1989 in the reference review Pnas and co-signed with two other researchers. The same year, Robert Malone repeated the experiment, this time with frog embryos. He will then do the experiment with the muscles of mice, which will be the subject of a publication in the prestigious revenue Nature.

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

Using messenger RNA as a treatment?

Robert Malone then perceives that messenger RNA could be used as a « treatment », recallsNature in an article published in September 2021. A vision that is not obvious at the time, when research is more focused on DNA and where messenger RNA is perceived as too “unstable” by investors. In addition, the large-scale manufacture of messenger RNA, necessary for a treatment, is still poorly controlled.

Finally, Robert Malone will leave the Salk Institute at the end of the 1980s around a patent history. He then continues to search, as his Google scholar page attests, but shifts 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 Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech messenger RNA vaccines to fight Covid-19. Decades during which research has progressed further. If the work of Robert Malone opened a door, it is indeed the tests developed by “dozens of researchers” which resulted in the technology currently used to vaccinate.

* Published on September 29 by Odile Jacob editions.

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