There’s a name that’s been popping up more and more in the COVID-19 conspiracy theory and antivaccine social media underground, one that I’ve been meaning to look into but somehow never got around to doing. I’m referring to Robert Malone, PhD. Currently, Malone shows up as CEO of RW Malone MD, LLC, a company, a consultancy and analytics company, for which Dr. Malone “specializes in clinical research, medical affairs, regulatory affairs, project management, proposal management (large grants and contracts), vaccines and biodefense,” including “writing, developing, reviewing and managing vaccine, bio-threat and biologics clinical trials and clinical development strategies.” On the surface, he sounds like a legitimate scientist, and maybe he was. However, in the era of the pandemic, something happened and he’s gone full COVID-19 crank.
I first noticed Malone a few months ago when his claims to be the “inventor of mRNA vaccines” gave me a mad “inventor of email” vibe. Remember Shiva Ayyadurai, the COVID-19 crank who claimed to have invented email but did not? Whatever Malone’s role in the history of mRNA vaccines actually is (and I’ll get into that a bit later), I get the same “inventor of email” energy that I got from Ayyadurai. Why? Malone’s “inventor of email” energy comes through perhaps the strongest in his appearance on Bret Weinstein’s podcast, which was featured prominently last week by über-quack Joe Mercola in an article entitled mRNA Vaccine Inventor Erased From History Books (because of course there has to be a conspiracy theory).
“They” are “erasing” Robert Malone from the history of mRNA vaccines
Before we even get to Malone’s COVID-19 conspiracy mongering and antivaccine nonsense, though, let’s look at the conspiracy theory that Mercola and Weinstein are peddling for Malone:
June 11, 2021, the inventor of the mRNA vaccine technology,1 Dr. Robert Malone, spoke out on the DarkHorse podcast about the potential dangers of COVID-19 gene therapy injections, hosted by Bret Weinstein, Ph.D. The podcast was quickly erased from YouTube and Weinstein was issued a warning.
To censor a scientific discussion with the actual inventor of the technology used to manufacture these COVID-19 shots is beyond shocking. But the censorship of Malone goes even further than that. As reported in the video above, Malone’s scientific accomplishments are also being scrubbed.
You can see where this is going. Malone spread misinformation on Weinstein’s podcast, and, as a result, “they” tried to shut him down, discredit him, and “erase” his role from history:
As recently as June 14, 2021, Malone’s contributions were extensively included in the historical section on RNA vaccines’ Wikipedia page. He was listed as having co-developed a “high-efficiency in-vitro and in-vivo RNA transfection system using cationic liposomes” in 1989.
In 1990, he demonstrated that “in-vitro transcribed mRNA could deliver genetic information into the cell to produce proteins within living cell tissue.” Malone was also part of the team that conducted the first mRNA vaccine experiments. In short, his scientific knowledge of mRNA vaccines is unquestionable.
Two days later, June 16, 2021, just five days after Malone’s appearance on the DarkHorse podcast, his name was removed from the Wikipedia entry. Now, all of a sudden, the discovery of mRNA drug delivery is accredited to nameless researchers at the Salk Institute and the University of California, and his 1990 research confirming that injected mRNA can produce proteins in cell tissue is accredited to nameless scientists at the University of Wisconsin.
Anyone who knows how Wikipedia works probably has their skeptical antennae twitching right now. Why? For one thing, Wikipedia is open. Every single edit, attempted edit, and the like are tracked and can be examined, and there are discussion pages in which edits can be discussed (or argued about). For the mRNA vaccine page on Wikipedia, for instance, here is the history page on which changes are tracked. (Or, you can look at the upper right hand corner for the “View History” link.)
Checking this history page out, I quickly found that over the last month or so there had been a rather vigorous discussion over changing the text. The first thing that I note is that, although Malone’s name is no longer in the history section of the entry, his work is still cited twice, specifically these papers:
- Malone, R. W.; Felgner, P. L.; Verma, I. M. (1 August 1989). “Cationic liposome-mediated RNA transfection”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 86 (16): 6077–6081. Bibcode:1989PNAS…86.6077M. doi:10.1073/pnas.86.16.6077. PMC 297778. PMID 2762315.
- Wolff, Jon A.; Malone, Robert W.; Williams, Phillip; Chong, Wang; Acsadi, Gyula; Jani, Agnes; Felgner, Philip L. (23 March 1990). “Direct Gene Transfer into Mouse Muscle in Vivo”. Science. 247 (4949): 1465–1468. Bibcode:1990Sci…247.1465W. doi:10.1126/science.1690918. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 1690918.
But let’s go into the discussion now. Contrary to what some quacks like to claim about me and my supposed awesome power over Wikipedia, I only dabbled in editing Wikipedia about a decade (or probably more) ago and gave it up as too frustrating, after having discovered that I’m much more suited temperamentally speaking, for blogging and social media. Although I still have a Wikipedia login, I haven’t used it for many years. So I decided to change that and take a look at the history. There’s been a lot of activity on the page over the last month or so!
Admittedly, not being Wikipedia editor (contrary, again, to what the quacks say), I had a hard time reading and understanding a lot of what was in the history, but I did see a few things that were interesting. First, if Robert Malone was being “erased” from Wikipedia, then so was Katalin Karikó, the biochemist at BioNTech who made critical observations that led to the mRNA vaccine now being distributed by Pfizer with BioNTech and holds patents for the application of non-immunogenic, nucleoside-modified RNA. For example, here, a Wikipedia editor under the ‘nym Red Rose 13 posted in the talk pages:
(1) This photo of Katalin Karikó, supposedly a scientist behind a key discovery in the development of mRNA vaccines is peacocking one scientist. This should be removed immediately. []
(2) The History section either includes all scientist names or none – just using the name of the organization. This section is out of balance by promoting or deleting key scientists according to an editors preferences rather than neutral scientific information.
(3) The imbalance needs to corrected. Red Rose 13 (talk) 14:28, 6 July 2021 (UTC)
“Peacocking” or “puffery,” per Wikipedia lingo, is the use of non-neutral adjectives to “puff up” a subject. Some adjectives listed as examples include legendary, best, great, acclaimed, iconic, visionary, outstanding, leading, celebrated, popular, award-winning, landmark, cutting-edge, innovative, revolutionary, extraordinary, brilliant, hit, famous, renowned, remarkable, prestigious, world-class and more.
More tellingly, though, it is observed elsewhere:
Between 2017 and recently an account has existed purely, it seems, for the purposes of adding Malone’s name to multiple articles on Wikipedia. On 8 June this year the account added Malone’s name to this article. Such additions were not backed by the sources cited; in fact no reputable source identifies Malone as the “inventor of RNA vaccines”, or even as a significant figure. The account was blocked for self-promotion/spam and the article returned to its longstanding form and improved in other ways. Meanwhile, on social media and in the scummier parts of the web, a lie has been spread that “longstanding” information on Wikipedia was scrubbed. Some people have been suckered in by this. Alexbrn (talk) 10:44, 6 July 2021 (UTC)
Here’s an example of Malone’s name being added by this account, which has the ‘nym Glasspool1:
And, yes, Glasspool1 did do a fair amount of adding Malone’s name to Wikipedia as the “inventor of mRNA.”
This discussion on Wikipedia makes Mercola’s choice of June 14 as the date when “something” changed and Robert Malone was starting to be “erased” from Wikipedia most…interesting. It’s very telling that Mercola doesn’t mention that Malone’s name had only been added to the mRNA vaccine article less than a week before. He either doesn’t know, doesn’t care, or knows and is lying by omission. Take your pick.
There’s more argument, too, on this Wikipedia page in which anonymous commenters complained, for example:
It is a published fact. In as much you accuse Malone of self-promotion, you are anti-promoting Malone. Facts are facts. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 10:49, 6 July 2021 (UTC)
Elsewhere, there were more complaints:
|ans=no These edits by user Alexbrn are attempting to hide the history of mRNA’s discovery by removing all references to Robert Malone. I suspect this is due to the recent controversy surrounding Robert, yet that does not make this edit appropriate. Please reverse these three abusive edits attempting to hide the history of mRNAs discovery. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=RNA_vaccine&diff=1029988072&oldid=1029743206 https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=RNA_vaccine&diff=1030322202&oldid=1030284345 https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=RNA_vaccine&diff=1030787298&oldid=1030331671
Not done No source(s) given. Note this is being discussed at WP:FTN#The danger of the spike protein in RNA vaccines, according to … their inventor?. Also, note WP:COI. Alexbrn (talk) 06:38, 28 June 2021 (UTC)
Interesting, isn’t it, how Asailum refers to Dr. Malone not as “Dr. Malone” but as “Robert.” This raises at least the possibility that Asailum and Malone could be friends—or at least that they know each other—if not outright suggesting it. Curiouser and curiouser. Who could Asailum be? Inquiring minds want to know!
Robert Malone is an individual who has appeared on social media to (as this Reuters fact check puts it) say that the spike protein as used in several COVID vaccines is “very dangerous” and “cytotoxic”. He styles himself and is referred to in such forums as the “inventor of mRNA vaccines”.
Over at RNA vaccine#History there has been repeated editing trying to get this “inventor” characterisation into Wikipedia, despite apparently there being no suitble WP:RS for it. While there is no doubt Malone was a scientist publishing early work in this field (see here) for example, his role does not even seem to have been so much that he is even namedin historical overviews of the topic, in contrast to – say – Katalin Karikó. Alexbrn (talk) 08:52, 25 June 2021 (UTC)
Katalin Karikó thanks Malone in the ‘Acknowledgements’ section of her first mRNA immunotherapy publication. This article tells Karikó’s impressive contributions as extensions of Malone’s earlier work. I sense you’re striving for good information rather than simply taking down Malone, but where are you getting this historical overview information? AntaniSuper (talk) 18:03, 30 June 2021 (UTC)
The main issue with Malone is there aren’t any reliable sources that discuss him in detail or the merits of his claim to have “invented” mRNA vaccines, though I see the Daily Mail and Fox News have uncritically parroted his claims. Hemiauchenia (talk) 08:56, 25 June 2021 (UTC)
In case you’re wondering, “WP:RS” means “Wikipedia Reliable Sources,” which should be “based on reliable, published sources, making sure that all majority and significant minority views that have appeared in those sources are covered (see Wikipedia:Neutral point of view).” Wikipedia further notes that “if no reliable sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it.” Those articles “should be based on reliable, independent, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, which “means that we publish the opinions only of reliable authors, and not the opinions of Wikipedians who have read and interpreted primary source material for themselves.” Similarly, “WP:V” stands for “Wikipedia:Verifiability,” which requires that “other people using the encyclopedia can check that the information comes from a reliable source.” It’s good to see that Wikipedia editors don’t view the Daily Mail or Fox News as reliable sources of information on COVID-19 vaccines, because they most definitely are not.
Let’s just say that I got the distinct feeling as I perused the edit history of the mRNA vaccine article that someone has been trying very, very hard to promote Malone by adding his name to this article and other articles on Wikipedia as the “inventor of mRNA vaccines.” I have no idea if it’s Malone itself and, given how late it was getting as I finished this post, was too tired (and didn’t have the time anyway) to start tracking down the IP addresses of the edits to see if there’s a pattern. This, I suspect, is a task best left to those with more time and patience—and a much more in-depth knowledge of the workings of Wikipedia.
However, from my brief analysis, I find it fairly obvious that there definitely appear to be Malone admirers out there “puffing him up.” Other Wikipedia editors caught this tampering and shut it down. I could speculate that these Malone admirers made these edits on purpose, knowing that Wikipedia’s error-correction mechanisms would catch them and lead other editors to revert their edits, thus generating a conspiracy theory about Wikipedia “erasing” Malone, but, quite frankly, I don’t think these Wikipedia tampering fans of Malone are clever or smart enough to have conceived such a plan.
The kerfuffle over this one article is a good example of one of the reasons why I decided long ago that editing Wikipedia was just not for me. Edit/reversion wars over contentious articles are exhausting, and I like spouting off my opinion too much to be able to stick to the neutral tone demanded by Wikipedia requirements. As Dirty Harry Callahan said in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” One of my limitations is a lack of patience in the face of this sort of thing. That’s why I salute science-based Wikipedia editors like Susan Gerbic and her Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, who have to deal with the Malones of the world trying to tamper with Wikipedia articles like this, as well as antivaxxers, quacks, and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists trying to edit Wikipedia articles to conform to their grandiose views of themselves.
Comment: – This is being characterised on the conspiracy-theory corners of the non-wiki web as “censorship” rather than the removal of COI – https://ussanews.com/News1/2021/07/05/mrna-vaccine-inventor-erased-from-history-books/ – Cabayi (talk) 08:45, 6 July 2021 (UTC)
There is nothing conspiracy theory about it, Robert Malone along with two others were the first to discover and patent lipid carrier mRNA transfection methods in 1989 which were later improved upon by others to create mRNA/DNA vaccines. There are no earlier patents of this specific technique being invented that is now in widespread use. Removing his name simply because anti vaxxers are misusing his concerns  is censorship. There is a key difference in safety concerns over a rushed vaccine which bypassed years of testing and well established vaccines which all had multi year trials to prove safety. Asailum (talk) 07:29, 7 July 2021 (UTC)
On the Asailum’s User talk page, Asailum states:
I have zero connection to anyone related to the topics I am discussing in the mRNA talk page. I work in software engineering related to autonomous cars and simply researching mRNA on my free time. I have other areas I plan to contribute to but this one in particular struck me as odd considering the chain of events
Someone “researching mRNA” in his/her free time who calls Dr. Malone “Robert” as if he/she/it knows him? That sounds plausible!
But what about Malone’s claim that he is the “inventor of mRNA vaccines”? There’s little doubt that he did work with an early group experimenting with injecting mRNA in liposomes into muscle to get the muscle cells to express the protein coded for by the mRNA sequence. Basically, in 1989, while in Inder Verma’s lab he published a paper in which the mRNA coding for Luciferase, a protein that undergoes bioluminescence when the right reagents are in the solution, was encapsulated in liposomes and used to transfect (introduce the mRNA or DNA into) NIH-3T3 cells (a commonly used fibroblast cell line), as well as human, rat, mouse, Xenopus, and Drosophila cells. This is basic cell culture work, a long way from vaccines. By 1990, he was second author on a paper in which mRNA constructs and DNA plasmids encoding chloramphenicol acetyltransferase, luciferase, and β-galactosidase (three common proteins that were used as markers because they could produce an easily assayable product) in liposomes were injected into mouse muscle, which was certainly an advance, but “inventor of mRNA vaccines”? It makes me wonder why this paper’s first (and corresponding) author Jon Wolff isn’t on Bret Weinstein’s and Joe Rogan’s podcasts and Fox News complaining about not getting his proper due as the one true “inventor of mRNA vaccines.” My guess is that he knows the proper role his work played in the development of these vaccines.
To be honest, I don’t actually care that much whether Malone does or does not deserve more credit as the one true “inventor of mRNA vaccines.” What I do care about is how he’s using his seeming scientific credibility to spread conspiracy theories and COVID-19 misinformation, for example, in Mercola’s article:
In his DarkHorse interview, Malone noted that he had warned the FDA that the spike protein — which the COVID-19 shots instruct your cells to make — could pose a health risk.
The FDA dismissed his concerns, saying they did not believe the spike protein was biologically active. Besides, the vaccine makers specifically designed the injections so that the spike protein would stick and not float about freely. As it turns out, they were wrong on both accounts.The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein has reproductive toxicity, and Pfizer’s biodistribution data show it accumulates in women’s ovaries. Despite that, Pfizer opted not to perform standard reproductive toxicology studies.
It’s since been established that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein does not stay near the injection site,7 and that it is biologically active. It is responsible for the most severe effects seen in COVID-19, such as bleeding disorders, blood clots throughout the body, heart problems and neurological damage.
I’ve written about all these false claims. Spike protein does not have demonstrable reproductive toxicity, and the study to which antivaxxers point to claim that it accumulates in the ovaries is a rodent study that doesn’t show that much accumulation at all and doesn’t show that the spike protein floats free in the bloodstream at quantities sufficient to cause problems. Indeed, the evidence we have shows that the spike protein from the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines is only transiently detectable in the bloodstream at infinitesimal concentrations.
According to Mercola, Malone claims that current COVID-19 vaccines violate bioethical principles:
…the adult public are basically research subjects that are not being required to sign informed consent due to EUA waiver. But that does not mean that they do not deserve the full disclosure of risks that one would normally require in an informed consent document for a clinical trial.
People are being given informed consent. What Malone doesn’t like is that they aren’t being given what I like to call “misinformed refusal,” in which risks of vaccines are vastly exaggerated and benefits denied, all to paint a distorted risk-benefit picture that leads people to fear the vaccine.
Malone is further quoted:
For example, if I were to propose a clinical trial involving children and entice participation by giving out ice cream to those willing to participate, any institutional human subjects safety board (IRB) in the United States would reject that protocol.
If I were to propose a clinical research protocol wherein the population of a geographic region would lose personal liberties unless 70% of the population participated in my study, once again, that protocol would be rejected by any US IRB based on coercion of subject participation. No coercion to participate in the study is allowed.
He bases this claim on his characterization of COVID-19 vaccines as “experimental.” As I’ve said so many times before, this is an intentional misuse of the legal definition of “investigational” or “experimental,” in which a drug or vaccine not approved by the FDA must be described using one of these words. However, from a scientific standpoint, COVID-19 vaccines are no longer experimental after they’ve undergone phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials involving tens of thousands of subjects and have now been administered to hundreds of millions of people with a good record of safety and efficacy. Basically, this is the intentional conflation of a legal term with a scientific term when they don’t mean the same thing in different contexts.
To reiterate, I don’t really care if Malone is truly the “inventor of mRNA vaccines” or not. I really don’t (even as I doubt that he really is). What I do care about is how he’s enthusiastically using his now ancient connection to mRNA transfection techniques. (Three decades ago is ancient history in molecular biology, something that I just thought of as I recalled that I cloned the new gene that became the basis of my PhD thesis about 30 years ago.) He’s using his status, regardless of whether he merits it or not, to spread fear about COVID-19 vaccines, with Joe Mercola eagerly lapping up the misinformation and conspiracy mongering:
This egregious example of censorship vividly demonstrates just how degenerated the media has become. The only possible explanation is that anyone or any piece of information that interferes with as many people getting the COVID jab is removed. Nothing that counters this narrative is tolerated despite every bit of information is making it clear that these COVID jabs are the biggest crime against mankind in the history of humanity.
Given the way mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are being demonized and how he apparently believes that they are so deadly and ineffective, I have to ask: Why is Malone so eager to claim ownership of them as their inventor? There really is a major disconnect here in his thinking. On the one hand, Malone’s desperation to be properly recognized by the scientific community as the one true “inventor of mRNA vaccines” is palpable. On the other hand, he routinely describes these vaccines (or at least the current COVID-19 vaccines) as not merely ineffective, but also horrifically deadly, a message amplified by quacks like Bret Weinstein and Joe Mercola, who proclaim these vaccines to be “the biggest crime against mankind in the history of humanity.” Why, if Malone truly believes that these vaccines are such scourges and horrors, would he want to be recognized as their inventor? If he were, then wouldn’t all the horror, death, and destruction attributed to the vaccines by antivaxxers then become, in large part, his fault? Yet COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and cranks lionize the “inventor of mRNA vaccines” for saying how evil they supposedly are. It does not compute.
He himself even Tweets things like this:
Let’s just say that Dr. Malone seems…confused. And enamored of conspiracy theories:
It’s the oldest con in the world. Make grandiose claims. Fear monger about something (in this case, COVID-19 vaccines). Then claim “persecution” or “censorship” when those claims do what such claims always do and invite scrutiny and attempts to correct the misinformation in them. By my estimation, though, Malone is just not that good at it.