According to Forbes magazine, pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer or Moderna could not have succeeded with the new mRNA vaccine against the Covid-19 epidemic without using the technology of scientist Ian MacLachlan. However, the merits of this hero were not recognized or even received a penny from his invention.
In fact, the most difficult part of a vaccine using mRNA technology lies in delivering the molecule containing this code safely into human cells without damage or other effects. They also need to be designed so that they are still effective enough to affect the body’s immune system despite being surrounded by protective layers.
“The whole foundation of this technology is not in building the mRNA molecule, it’s too easy. The problem is how to get the mRNA molecule into human cells and affect the immune system,” the CEO said. Albert Bourla of Pfizer admits.
Because of this, Pfizer’s vaccine uses microscopic pieces of fat (Lipid) to encapsulate the mRNA molecule. However, how Pfizer created this Lipid-coated technology has not been revealed much.
The cause? Instead of paying royalties or acknowledging its inventor, Pfizer entered a 15-year legal battle with numerous controversies and complicated stories behind.
Similarly, Moderna is also very careful in claiming to use MacLachlan’s technique for mRNA technology. Many lawsuits have been filed and delayed, along with a lot of legal costs about the owner of this technology.
Who is the hero?
Forbes magazine carried out a months-long investigation, concluding that the only viable method today is to use lipid coatings for mRNA molecules, and they were not invented by any company. among the giants Pfizer, Moderna or BioNTech.
Instead, the first person who is said to have invented this method belongs to the little-known scientist Ian MacLachlan, a Canadian citizen. Mr. MacLachlan was previously the research director of two small companies, Protiva Biotherapeutics and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. Here Mr. MacLachlan and his colleagues invented the Lipid coating technique that pharmaceutical companies are using today.
Mr. Ian MacLachlan. Image source: Forbes
“I read newspapers and see news about vaccines everywhere. I can confirm that the current mRNA vaccines are using the technology we developed,” Mr. MacLachlan emphasized.
It is estimated that giants such as Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer will achieve vaccine sales to $ 45 billion in 2021 and they do not pay Mr. MacLachlan even a cent. It sounds ridiculous that other small pharmaceutical companies like Gritstone Oncology would accept MacLachlan’s invention and pay his Protiva-Tekmira company 5-15% of total sales of vaccines using this technology.
Forbes magazine said that MacLachlan’s invention could help him earn up to $ 6.75 billion in royalties in 2021 alone with the number of vaccines that Moderna and Pfizer sell. Ironically, US President Joe Biden’s call to give up vaccine patents to speed up vaccination could leave scientists like MacLachlan empty-handed.
Despite the big boys’ denials, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) records show that vaccines manufactured by Pfizer or Moderna used lipid technology similar to what Mr. invention.
Specifically, scientists have created a new formula from 4 patented lipids. This process is done with Ethanol and a very simple and effective T-connector.
Forbes’ investigation revealed that for years, Moderna had claimed that it used its own technology to deliver the mRNA molecule into human cells. However, when testing on mice with the Covid-19 vaccine, the company used the formula composition of 4 types of Lipid with the same ratio as MacLachlan’s technique.
Moderna’s side said that the vaccine in the experimental phase has a different formula from the product put on the market. However, Moderna’s legal filings show that its product still uses the same four lipids as MacLachlan’s technique, but with a small change in the ratio, although this change has not been made public by the company.
The story with Pfizer and BioNTech is similar when the FDA shows that they also use 4 types of Lipids at roughly the same rate as what MacLachlan has registered.
Not everyone denies MacLachlan’s merits. Scientist Katalin Kariko, who has worked with MacLachlan and has joined BioNTech since 2013, said that it was the man above who was the real god of mRNA. However, Ms. Kariko said that he gave up too soon before the pressure of the big boys when competing for technology of his own invention.
“MacLachlan is a talented scientist, but he still lacks vision,” Kariko regretfully said of the Canadian scientist’s resignation.
A series of lawsuits and controversies over new technology frustrated MacLachlan, giving up Tekmira in 2014 as well as any silenced compensation arrangements.
MacLachlan himself sold his entire stake in the company and bought a $60,000 garage to travel around Canada with his family.
“I was exhausted and demoralized at that point,” MacLachlan recalls.
Although depressed, but MacLachlan understood that it was not Pfizer or Moderna but himself and his colleagues who were the real heroes of the world.
“There are teams that have sacrificed many things in their lives to successfully develop this technology. They have put their hearts and souls into researching it. These people work extremely hard and devoted himself to this new technology,” admitted Mr. MacLachlan.
After MacLachlan dropped out in 2014, the lawsuits continued, but neither side really won. The irony is that the Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA technology is not included in the final copyright agreement text.
Forbes magazine reported that Moderna used a trick when it filed a lawsuit with the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to invalidate a series of patents related to MacLachlan’s technology, thereby put vaccines into testing and production.
After the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved, mRNA technology researcher Frew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania posted a post confirming that this product uses similar technology to MacLachlan’s.
However, no one really stood up to claim justice for this Canadian scientist even when he himself gave up the reward he deserved.