Without Ian MacLachlan’s innovative delivery system, Moderna and Pfizer might not have been able to get their mRNA vaccines into human cells safely.


The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was engineered with technology that instructs the body’s immune system to combat coronavirus. But to get it safely into human cells, the mRNA needed to be wrapped in microscopic fragments of fat known as lipids. The story of how Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer managed to create that vital delivery system has never been told. It’s a complicated saga involving 15 years of legal battles and accusations of betrayal and deceit. Here are some key points:

A Forbes investigation revealed the scientist most responsible for this critical delivery method is a Canadian biochemist named Ian MacLachlan, who led the team that developed this technology.

None of the big pharmaceutical companies openly acknowledge his ground-breaking work, and MacLachlan earns nothing from royalties.

Moderna Therapeutics vigorously disputes the idea that its mRNA vaccine uses MacLachlan’s delivery system, and legal proceedings are pending.

Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer are on their way to selling $45 billion worth of vaccines in 2021. 

MacLachlan quit his position, partly because messy legal battles and political infighting within the biopharma industry had taken its toll. But, despite being overlooked, MacLachlan knows he helped save the world.


Nov 2020 The Guardian Covid vaccine technology pioneer: 'I never doubted it would work'

Jan 2021 USA Today News Luck, foresight and science: How an unheralded team developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time

Jan 2021 Time mRNA Technology Gave Us the First COVID-19 Vaccines. It Could Also Upend the Drug Industry