The immunologist and his team are developing a universal vaccine against COVID-19.
Moroccan scientist Lbachir BenMohamed is making headlines in the US for working on a universal COVID-19 vaccine — a vaccine that would work on all variants of the coronavirus, even those that have not appeared yet.
At the Institute for Immunology affiliated to the University of California, Irvine, BenMohamed is leading a nine-member research team tasked with developing a universal COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine is currently at the stage of preclinical trials, but it is expected to reach clinical tests before the end of 2021.
Lbachir BenMohamed explained during his several appearances on US television channels that the universal COVID-19 vaccine has a similar composition to the vaccines developed by American pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer.
However, the universal vaccine includes additional ingredients that would allow it to be effective against any possible mutation of the coronavirus in the future.
Another original concept that BenMohamed and his team are working on is the injection method of the vaccine. While all currently-available COVID-19 vaccines are injected through a syringe, the in-development universal vaccine would be administered through a patch, similarly to the widely-available nicotine patches.
Lbachir BenMohamed explained that the main reason behind developing a new method of injection is to overcome the limitations imposed by liquid vaccines.
The Moroccan scientist argued that current vaccines have strict limitations, such as the extremely-low temperatures required during their storage and transportation. The use of patches, meanwhile, would make transporting vaccines significantly easier.
“We could just put the patches in an envelope and send the vaccine anywhere in the world,” BenMohamed told Fox Los Angeles.
The innovative solution aroused the curiosity of American journalists who expressed their eagerness to learn more about the vaccine, as it goes through more development phases.
Born in 1968 in a small town near Guelmim, in Morocco’s southern provinces, a young Lbachir BenMohamed would have never thought that he would be making headlines for leading an international research team.
In an interview with Moroccan news outlet Le360, the Moroccan scientist shared how he managed to forge his path towards becoming a highly-acclaimed scientist in the US.
BenMohamed first attended the modest Sidi Ahmed Derkaoui primary school in his hometown, Tagant. As a teenager, he had to travel 40 kilometers to the city of Guelmim to pursue his middle and high school studies.
After earning a high school diploma, BenMohamed enrolled at the Faculty of Sciences affiliated to the Ibn Zohr University in Agadir. In 1984, he was part of the first class to ever study biology and geology at the university.
Five years later, in 1989, BenMohamed obtained a Licence (Bachelor equivalent) in biochemistry. He went on to deepen his knowledge in the field at the University of Paris VII, currently known as the Paris Diderot University, where he obtained a Diploma of Advanced Studies in immunology.
In the 1990s, the Moroccan scientist joined the world-renowned Pasteur Institute in Paris as an intern. He carried most of his research work at the institute until he obtained a Ph.D. in 1997.
Migration to the US
The doctor decided to fly to the US to improve his English language and then return to Paris to continue his post-doctoral research. However, attracted by the quality of research institutions in the US, he decided to stay there.
Lbachir BenMohamed joined the University of California, Irvine, in 2002 as an assistant researcher. He earned several promotions throughout the years and has been, since 2014, a fully-fledged professor at the university.
The universal COVID-19 vaccine is currently the Moroccan immunologist’s top priority. The project has recently received a $4 million grant from the US government to accelerate the vaccine’s development.