Has a Bayer executive claimed that messenger RNA vaccines are gene therapy?

For the public convinced of the danger of messenger RNA vaccines against Covid-19, the video footage is only a validation of what they have taken for granted for a long time.

But it nonetheless remains, in the eyes of these Internet users, overwhelming proof, since it would be an admission from the German pharmaceutical company Bayer – which had planned to produce the anti-Covid vaccine in 2022 – 19 CureVac before this one was discontinued last month.

“As a reminder: A Bayer executive admits in public that mRNAs are gene therapies and that without the pandemic, no one would have been willing to be injected”, thus affirms a tweet relaying a video sequence of about twenty seconds.

Stefan Oelrich says in English: “Finally, mRNA vaccines are an example of this gene and cell therapy. As I like to repeat, if we had asked public opinion two years ago: “Would you be ready to undergo gene or cell therapy and see it injected into your body?” had a 95% refusal rate. I think this pandemic has opened the eyes of many people to innovation, in ways inconceivable in the past. “


This sequence is authentic: it is taken from the speech given by Stefan Oelrich, director of the pharmaceutical arm of Bayer, at the opening of the World Health Summit 2021 (World Health Summit, WHS), held in Berlin from October 24 to 26. . We find this precise passage on the video replay of the official YouTube account of the WHS, from 1’37’40.

This annual event which, since 2009, brings together many scientists to discuss “global health challenges”, enjoys a great deal of political support, this gathering being placed under the patronage of Germany, France, the European Commission and World Health Organization (WHO).

If Stefan Oelrich did establish a link, in his speech, between gene therapy and messenger RNA vaccines – as many opponents of the vaccine have been doing for months – the Bayer group tells 20 Minutes that this is “an obvious slip.” “At Bayer, [les vaccins à] MRNA does not come under gene therapy in the sense that is commonly attributed to this expression, ”adds the company.

A major difference between gene therapy and mRNA vaccines

Gene therapies consist in fact, as explained on its site the National Institute of Health and Research (Inserm), “to introduce genetic material into cells to treat a disease”.

“Gene therapy was initially conceived as a therapeutic approach intended for monogenic diseases (ie linked to the dysfunction of a single gene), delivering to cells a” healthy “gene capable of replacing the” sick “gene. Today, the methods and indications are much broader, with 65% of clinical trials concerning the treatment of cancer, ”continues Inserm.

Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, such as those from Moderna and Pfizer, unlike “traditional” vaccines, grow “our cells [à] produce the virus protein, as is the case when the virus infects us ”, as explained a few months ago in 20 Minutes the specialist in RNA structures Nicolas Leulliot. What lead some to fear a permanent modification of our cells and therefore a serious risk to health.

An unfounded fear, according to the many scientists questioned on this subject since the rise of these vaccines. “We don’t touch the genome. We will simply provide a photocopy of a gene, in the form of RNA. This photocopy is not intended to modify our genome. We are not going to become genetically modified beings, ”explained Nicolas Leulliot, when the director of the Technological Research Accelerator in Genomic Therapy at Inserm, Anne Galy, for her part, told AFP Factuel:“ With these vaccines, we bring in an RNA molecule that will make immune cells produce very transiently the spike protein of the virus, which will encourage the lymphocytes to react, but this RNA does not persist and does not stay in the body . “