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Meet Dr. Jason McLellan: The Scientist Behind Key Proteins in COVID-19 Vaccines and Potential Treatments for Deadly Pathogens Affecting Billions

Dr. Jason McLellan's groundbreaking research on viral and bacterial proteins has led to the development of vaccines and treatments for deadly pathogens affecting billions of people. His co-invention of a method for engineering a crucial protein in coronaviruses has played a key role in the COVID-19 vaccine development, including those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. 

McLellan, a former assistant professor at the Geisel School, is now the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin.

Jason McLellan wins prestigious McGuire Family Prize for Groundbreaking COVID-19 Research 

Dartmouth College awarded the prestigious McGuire Family Prize for Societal Impact to Jason McLellan, in recognition of his groundbreaking coronavirus research that paved the way for life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. McLellan, who conducted his research at the Geisel School of Medicine, received the $100,000 prize as part of The Call to Lead campaign, which celebrates Dartmouth community members who have made significant contributions to humankind, society, or the environment.


The award was presented to McLellan during a ceremony held on May 13, as part of the Dartmouth Innovation and Technology Festival and the grand opening of the West End District. McLellan's vaccine technology was the foundation for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, among others. His team at the Geisel School developed the vaccine technology that stabilized the spike protein in coronaviruses, which allowed vaccine antibodies to be more effective. The technology was used in the first U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trials and by other vaccine manufacturers in the months that followed.


Expressing his gratitude for receiving the prize from his former colleagues at Dartmouth, where he started his lab and was given the opportunity to be an independent investigator, McLellan's achievements have undoubtedly saved countless lives across the globe.

McLellan says he is honored to receive the McGuire Family Prize, especially as it’s coming from former colleagues at Dartmouth, “where I started my lab and where I was given the opportunity to be an independent investigator."

Dynamic Trio: Meet the Co-Inventors Behind the Groundbreaking COVID-19 Vaccine Technology


Dr. Daniel Wrapp

Daniel received his PhD from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in 2020. He then joined the laboratory of Dr. Bart Haynes at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute as a postdoctoral fellow.

Dr. Nianshuang Wang

Nianshuang joined the McLellan lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2014 after receiving his Ph.D. from Tsinghua University. He joined Regeneron Pharmaceuticals as a Scientist in 2020

Double Honors for Dr. Jason McLellan: Awarded Prestigious NAS and Norman Hackerman Awards for COVID-19 and RSV Vaccine Breakthroughs 

Dr. McLellan, Welch Chair in Chemistry and professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, has been awarded the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research and the NAS Award in Molecular Biology for his pioneering work in the molecular and structural biology of viral surface proteins, receiving a $100,000 prize, bronze sculpture, medal and $25,000 respectively; his work has earned him various other awards including the O'Donnell Award in Medicine for 2022 from TAMEST, recognition as Young Investigator in Virology, Outstanding Alumnus at Wayne State University, the inaugural McGuire Family Prize for Societal Impact recipient at Dartmouth, and Texas Inventor of the Year in 2021.


Catherine J. Murphy, chair of the Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board, praised McLellan's innovative research and stated that every American vaccinated against COVID-19 has directly benefited from his work; McLellan expressed his honor and vowed to continue efforts in biochemical vaccine design and future development.

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