• Ting Yu

    Ting Yu is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor. Profile

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There are 29 comments on How Scientists Drew Weissman (MED’87, GRS’87) and Katalin Karikó Developed the Revolutionary mRNA Technology inside COVID Vaccines

  1. Compare how big Pharma is intending to cash in on research developed in universities with NIH funding with Jonas Salk who purposely did not patent the polio vaccine formula. And Moderna is playing hard nosed business monolith by refusing to share the formula with an African gentech company who can make the vaccine available for use in Africa in a year. Without the exact formula it will take 3 years. In Africa the vaccine rate is at 1% for a country that has spawned a new variation that’s spreading rapidly. Moderna says it intends to build a lab in Africa to produce the vaccine. But at what price? And how many people die while Moderna makes obscene profits?

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      The production of pharmaceuticals requires many controls to be in place, mandated by regulations for the safety of those receiving them. It is not like giving someone a food recipe or car repair instructions and having them come out perfect. Look back at the recall which happened in 01Sep2021 where “An investigation carried out by Moderna and the Spanish manufacturer Rovi found that the issue was caused by incorrect assembly due to a visual misjudgment of the required 1mm gap between the stopper lids on the vials and the machinery that is used to insert them.”

      See https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-takeda-says-human-error-caused-contamination-moderna-vaccines-2021-10-01/

      When something goes wrong in the technical transfer of the formula, who gets the blame? Setting up a manufacturing facility takes specialized facility design (cleanrooms, sterile manufacturing areas, high purity utilities) and specialized manufacturing equipment (production and purification under precisely controlled parameters), the components of which are typically custom-built using exacting parameters including materials of construction and validated software. Once the equipment and facilities are actually built, the installation, operation and performance of how they work and their specifications must be rigorously challenged. Then there are the Quality Control procedures to test and qualify the raw materials (chemicals) and all components which come in contact with any phase of the product along the manufacturing process. Each of these have precise specifications, approved suppliers, defined chain-of-custody (including strict temperature requirements) and documentation requirements just to get them into the door. Once they arrive, each shipment (even if the chemical is the same lot as previously received) must be tested onsite to prove identity using validated test procedures. This is all part of a well-controlled Quality Management System which identifies trends, responds to any deviation in the facility typically within 1 day with appropriate corrective and preventive actions.
      Product is tested multiple times along the production and purification processes for many parameters using strictly controlled procedures to ensure the final product is the same every time. Once it is pure, the product goes into the final containers using validated sterile processes, equipment and components. Each filling process is strictly validated with controlled training procedures of qualified operators to ensure the things like those which happened at the Rovi plant do not happen.
      Then there are the strict stability testing protocols to ensure the product meets the release specifications through the validated expiration date. The facility is audited both internally by the company or outside consultants and regulators from around the world.
      This is just a brief summary of what it takes to get pharmaceuticals made. You may have noticed I frequently use the term “validated.” That process is strictly defined by the industry to ensure the whole manufacturing and distribution process is always in a state of control.
      For these companies to make the product at their fully-controlled facilities and distribute them throughout the world is much more efficient, safer for patient and faster than sharing the formula. Even the 3-year estimate to get a new facility up and running with trained operators is highly aggressive.
      In summary, this is not like making a copycat Rolex or smartphone. The people who manufacture, test and control these vaccines have worked (and are still working) massive number of hours (holidays & weekends included) to keep the facilities running 24 x 7. The profits being made help the facility to expand to increase production and expand the mRNA technology to new uses.
      I hope that puts thing into perspective.

  2. This is a fascinating article about true research, and how it has positively impacted the entire world’s population. I am wondering whether or not Dr. Weissman is continuing to work with Ms. Kariko ? It seems that she is hardly mentioned in the article, with chief focus on Dr. Weissman. Without her synthetic mRNA, the vaccine would not have been developed at this time.

    That means continued high death rates across the world. I was just wondering why more of her was not in the article.

    1. Hi Eva,

      Thank you for your note. We focused on Dr. Weissman because he is a BU alum, and Bostonia is the alumni magazine of Boston University. We did, however, want to include Dr. Kariko because her role is just as important.

      All my best,

      Cindy Buccini

  3. Why are many people refusing to take the vaccine on the pretense that it has not been researched clinically and thoroughly, knowing that it takes years of collecting statistics to confirm its safety short and long term ? How can they be reassured of its safety

    This article shed light on very good information explaining the science behind the vaccine and also dispelling a lot of the conspiracy arguments, however. Many are still
    Worries because the mRNA technology is new, and like anything new, people like to wait and see, especially that there are some cases that have go very sick after the vaccine and some deaths have occurred.

    1. Agree 100% Society is all part of the testing.This makes me wonder why they are hunting and blaming those who choose not to be vaccinated.It feels like a bad Sci Fi movie when I see these witch hunts in the media.This scares me more than anything I have been watching for the last 2 years

  4. Fabulous, exciting article. I had wanted to know. is it applicable to cancer? Is this what we are hearing in the news about new vaccine therapy.

  5. Thank you for this well-researched and well-written story of mRNA technology and the scientists behind it. Let’s find ways to make the vaccines that use this technology available to everyone, everywhere. Until we do, the Coronavirus will be with us.

    Congratulations to Dr Weissman for working with countries to get mRNA vaccines and treatments for diseases such as Sickle Cell into the hands of people who need them but for now don’t have access to them. How can we support his work in this area?

    Thank you!

    1. Dr. Kariko’s idea to use messenger RNA to fight disease was considered too radical for investors to fund. Dr. Weissman joined UPenn in 1997 and met Dr. Kariko at the photocopy machine.

      Sadly, Dr. Weissman is afforded a title and Dr. Kariko is called Ms suggesting that even in 2022 we are impeded by our assumptions (i.e, immigrant Ph.D female biochemist must be the assistant to the male).

      Moderna suing Pfizer suggests her post doctoral research will be ignored in legal arguments about intellectual property since U. Penn. Pulled her funding & she was hired

  6. Fascinating article. What true heros these two scientists are! It is sad, but all too common, how short sighted others have been during the many years of research and development of mRNA. Many less dedicated scientists would have given up long ago.

  7. Female scientist is born in small town in Hungary. She grows up in a two room house with no running water, tv, or refrigerator. By the 8th grade, she’s ranked third-best in her country in biology for her age group. In the late 1970’s she defends her PhD thesis on RNA while pregnant. She works in obscurity for years, being ignored or outright dismissed, and defunded by male colleagues. She soldiers on. The lab where she works is closed. In 1985, she escapes communism by stuffing money into her child’s teddy bear, leads her family out of the country, and goes to work in America. By the late 1980’s, she has a working prototype of the idea, to help with treatments at two different labs, one using mRNA in heart surgery, and another to treat cerebrovascular spasms in the brain.

    Male scientist bumps into female scientist at the copy machine. She offers to help him with his research. She tells him about mRNA, touting its vast potential.
    She offers to make mRNA for one of his experiments. Man actually listens and works with her a bit. Together, they publish their results.

    Later, when this is talked about, make scientist leads entire article, female scientist becomes footnote.

    Katalin Karikó invented this, others contributed later to manufacturing it to be sure, but she is the originator and as the Senior Vice President of BioNTech, is the driving force behind the mRNA COVID vaccine, and should be referred to as such.

    She is not someone who “also worked on it” that you “generously” think should be included as an afterthought.

  8. This article is complete rewrite of history. No mention of Dr Malone who claims to have discovered in-vitro and in-vivo RNA transfection at the Salk Institute in 1987, and that he later invented mRNA vaccines in 1988.This pre-dates anything cited here.

    1. Dr. Malone worked on methods to more effectively deliver naturally occuring RNA and mRNA through the cell membrane using lipids (paper from 1989). His team transfected luciferase (an enzyme derived from fireflies) into mouse cells in vitro (and they glowed), followed by a study of on mice in-vivo the following year. This is different from engineering the mRNA itself to affect specific cellular machinery – which is what Weissman and Kariko worked on. His claim of inventing mRNA vaccines is disputed since it took a collective work to develop all the components necessary for the final products we have today; including in-silico simulations, mRNA sequencing/editing, bulk nanoparticle lipid production, etc.

      1. Dr. Malone’s ego keeps getting in the way of any praise that he should deservingly receive. No one person invented or delivered the mRNA sequencing. It took teams from everywhere to get to where we are.

  9. I wish I could ask a few questions to prof Weissman:

    1) Could any skilled scientist engineer a HIV (or any lethal pathogen) with a modified Coronavirus spike protein?

    2) Could anyone engineer a few Coronavirus variants (such as Sarscov-2, Beta, Delta, Omicron, Pi, …) each with a bit different spike protein (those different parts at each variant actually to be the common part with the lethal one’s spike protein)?

    3) Could viruses be modified not to mutate (so as not to become resistant and erase the whole of humanity)?

    Is it possible to achieve a SELECTIVE depopulation plan by first engineering a HIV with a modified Coronavirus spike protein then creating a few Corona viruses, spikes a bit different from each other? After all the necessary variants are released, to “decide” to produce a multi valent mRNA, made of each variant’s different parts (which was placed intentionally to be taken as reference in building mRNA sequence of the spike of that HIV)?

    If the answer is yes, then, An intended immunisation can be given to desired younger and healthier parts of populations by calculated delivery times to each country, by avoiding the World Health Organization’s priority, old, sick, handicap people’s vaccination time!
    This method can be used at any time by ‘any bad guys’ by creating a lethal pathogen with a modified coronavirus spike protein made of unique parts of existing variants and then using a “multivalent mRNA” and then releasing that lethal pathogen and eliminating all who didn’t receive THAT injection!

    Every condition necessary to achieve such a plan are already exist: Global vaccination, Variants with unique spike protein parts, mRNA technology (which is the only way to produce that desired Protein by a multivalent mRNA), WHO priority groups’ different vaccination times (for the right vaccine to reach to desired qualified people)

    The only missing step is ‘another variant to be released (saying that “it is more dangerous” and therefore current vaccines needs to be updated!) and producing an multivalent mRNA or a pan or universal coronavirus vaccine!

    I am sure they didn’t think an multivalent mRNA vaccine could be used to achieve such a plan
    when they developed it!
    Could you please ask these questions to Prof. Weissman an Kariko?
    The usage of multivalent mRNA leaves an open door for the described biological attack method to be achieved! This risk should not exist!

    PRECAUTION for such a biological attack possibility not to become reality; Requesting authorities to not let use of any chimeric mRNA sequence, which would encode a never existing new protein shape with no reference existing virus protein to compare with, in vaccines by explaining how it could be used in the described way! Also, requesting authorities to decide which vaccine is the most efficient and use only that vaccine on everybody! Proclaiming that ‘every citizen deserves the same, best possible treatment’. Mentioning also that, ‘vaccine equity’ would assure avoiding the usage of different vaccines on different age and health grouped people, to achieve the described method of a global, FUTURE biological attack, resulting in a TARGET SELECTIVE depopulation!

  10. This mRNA technique inevitably reminds me of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology.
    I think they are really similar in terms of the applications, as they can cure, for instance, genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia.
    However, they are slightly different with regards to the way they interfere with our body cells: while CRISPR/Cas9 aims to manipulate the cell DNA, mRNA produces the correct version of the protein that causes the disorder (without any changes in the genes).

    However, mRNA is definitely promising in the area of immunology. It has been scientifically proven that the efficacy of mRNA vaccines, just as this article says, boosts up measurably. Moreover, this vaccines have more variability, that is to say, a greater chance of an immune response against a virus, as the mRNA may be designed to cover distinct strains of the infectious pathogen.

    I have connected dots and learnt a lot reading this article.I am faithful this mRNA method will save millions of lives in the future, just as it is doing now.

    My best congratulations to both of these incredible and hard-working researchers, they really deserve the whole humanity gratitude particularly during this pandemic time.

    Miryam Vacas, 12th grade High School student
    Barcelona, Spain

  11. Dr Malone discovered in-vitro and in-vivo RNA transfection at the Salk Institute in 1987, and that he later invented mRNA vaccines in 1988.This predates anything cited here.

    1. You might want to check up on facts Kiersten. Yes, Dr. Malone did investigate work very early on before almost anyone else had with mRNA, like almost any discovery of almost anything, it takes a team to come up with final solutions. Maybe stop listening to podcasts on Spotify.

      1. Indeed, the real breakthrough that enabled Robert Malone to transfect RNA in vitro into cells was the cationic lipid developed by Phil Felgner (second author on Malone’s paper) who used it to transfect DNA in vitro into cells (https://www.pnas.org/doi/pdf/10.1073/pnas.84.21.7413). Once Felgner had demonstrated one could use a cationic lipid as a means to get a large nucleic acid (DNA) to traverse the cellular and nuclear membranes to deliver it into cells, it wasn’t that much of an intellectual leap for Malone to swap RNA for DNA.

  12. So, is this article saying that the vaccine went straight from mice, to men? No testing on primates? This “modification of the nucleosides in mRNA molecules” is potentially concerning. Down regulation of any immunological response could have risks. Were studies conducted that could prove that our body’s response to cancers was not impacted?

  13. As to who invented the mRNA vaccine technology, here is the answer verbatim from Dr. Robert Malone (Patrick Bet-David Podcast Episode 113 – YouTube January 6, 2022 343,000 views)
    PBD : Why are you saying that you’re the inventor?
    Robert Malone : The reason I’m saying it is because I have 9 issued patents that have my name on it from 1988
    PBD : And this is public information?
    Robert Malone : It’s widely available and never cited [ As is of course the case here in this thread ] cont. –So, for instance the Nature article of “The Tangled History of mRNA Vaccines,”…I provided that author with access to deep information, including the primary invention disclosure, which I validated by…enabling him to speak to the scientist Mark Kindy that cross-signed it–I think it was 1987 or 1988… None of these articles have cited the patents that have been part of this mainstream press narrative… in her first mRNA-related paper, in which she[Katalin Kariko] not only cites my work…she lists in the acknowledgements appreciation for my interaction with her[!!!]

  14. I’d like to understand why I’ve developed adverse effects from the mRNA vaccine, dose 2, if the inflammatory problems seem to have been sorted out. My doctor, who sees many vaccine-injured patients, said I should avoid all vaccines for 2 years after serious adverse effects after Pfizer. This doctor said the injuries are caused by inflammation. The symptoms began soon after the second dose.

    I wonder if there is something people could do to prevent this strong inflammatory response before receiving these vaccines. I see the potential with this technology, but I’m now worried about receiving any further vaccines.

  15. It’s ironic that when a question is asked in regards to testing on anything besides mice/when complications from or adverse reactions are mentioned, there is no answer provided. This is key to overall effectiveness.

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