Nobel Winners Revolutionize Medicine: mRNA Vaccines Unveiled!
The 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine has been conferred upon Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. They have been recognized for their groundbreaking contributions in establishing the framework for mRNA messenger vaccines, enabling the development of Covid-19 vaccines.
The Nobel Foundation states that their discovery has fundamentally reshaped our understanding of how messenger RNA molecules interact with the immune system.
This pioneering achievement has played a pivotal role. It has contributed to the creation of “an exceptionally rapid vaccine against one of the most significant contemporary threats to human health.”
Katalin Karikó’s accomplishments
At the age of 68, Hungarian scientist Katalin Karikó has become the 13th woman to be honored with the Nobel Prize in Medicine. This award stands as the most prestigious among her numerous scientific accolades. She has earned it alongside her American counterpart, Drew Weissman.
In 2021, they jointly received a Breakthrough award. This award is often likened to the Oscars of science and acknowledges the same groundbreaking work celebrated today by the Nobel Foundation.
This marks the second instance in the history of the Nobel Prize in Medicine where a vaccine has been recognized. Before the advent of mRNA technology enabling the Covid-19 vaccine, Max Theiler was awarded the prize in 1951. He was awarded for developing the yellow fever vaccine. Out of the 113 Nobel Prizes in Medicine awarded since 1901, seven have been linked to discoveries concerning the immune system.
Born in 1955 in Szolnok, Hungary, Katalin completed her doctoral studies at the University of Szeged. She continued her education in the same city until 1985, after which she relocated to the United States. There, she worked at the Temple University in Philadelphia and later at the University of Health Science in Bethesda. In 1989, she joined the University of Pennsylvania, remaining there until 2013. She subsequently transitioned to the private sector as the Vice President of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals. Since 2021, she holds a professorship at the University of Szeged, her initial alma mater. Additionally, she also holds a professorship at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nobel. Drew Weissman’s path
Drew Weissman, aged 64, was born in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1959. Following the completion of his doctorate at the University of Boston in 1987, he served at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center within the Harvard Medical School. Later, he also served at the National Institutes of Health. Since 1997, Weissman has been actively contributing to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Both originating from modest Eastern European backgrounds, they persevered through years of seemingly unproductive research. It was Katalin Karikó’s husband who provided support in her pursuit of realizing the dream of developing mRNA-based vaccines.