Katalin Karikó, alongside Drew Weissman, earns the Nobel Medicine Prize for pioneering mRNA technology, enabling COVID-19 vaccines and medical breakthroughs.

Who Katalin Karikó?

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Katalin Karikó, a name now etched in the annals of medical history, has been awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize for her groundbreaking work in the field of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. Alongside her colleague Drew Weissman, this dynamic duo’s contributions have been instrumental in the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines and hold immense promise for the future of medicine.

The Nobel committee’s decision to honor Karikó and Weissman represents a departure from their tradition of recognizing decades-old research. In this case, the science dates back to 2005, but its profound impact was only fully realized when mRNA technology was employed in the creation of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines.

Karikó, hailing from Hungary, and Weissman, from the United States, have long been partners in research at the University of Pennsylvania. Their dedication and innovation garnered them numerous awards, including the prestigious Lasker Award in 2021, often seen as a precursor to the Nobel.

What sets mRNA vaccines apart is their departure from traditional methods, which use weakened viruses or virus proteins. Instead, mRNA vaccines provide genetic instructions to cells, instructing them to produce specific proteins. This process mimics an infection, training the immune system to respond effectively when confronted with the actual virus.

Although the concept of mRNA vaccines was demonstrated in 1990, it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that Karikó and Weissman devised a technique to control the dangerous inflammatory responses observed in animals exposed to these molecules. This breakthrough paved the way for the development of safe human vaccines.

Beyond COVID-19, the potential of Karikó’s and Weissman’s mRNA technology extends to treatments for other diseases such as cancer, influenza, and heart failure. Their research has opened new doors in the realm of medicine, holding the promise of more effective treatments and potentially saving countless lives.

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In recognition of their groundbreaking contributions, Karikó and Weissman will be awarded the Nobel Prize, which includes a diploma, a gold medal, and a $1 million cheque. The formal ceremony is scheduled for December 10th in Stockholm, commemorating the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

Their accolade serves as a testament to the power of innovation and dedication in the face of global health challenges, and it reinforces the Nobel’s mission to honor those who have “conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”