Nobel Laureates Transforming Medicine: The mRNA Revolution Unveiled!
The 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for laying the foundations of mRNA messenger vaccines that have made Covid-19 vaccines possible.
According to the Nobel Foundation, their discovery has profoundly altered our understanding of how the messenger RNA molecule interacts with the immune system.
Thanks to this groundbreaking advancement, the two winners have contributed to the development of “an unprecedentedly swift vaccine against one of the greatest threats to modern human health.”
Nobel. Katalin Karikó’s job
At 68 years old, Hungarian scientist Katalin Karikó becomes the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine. This is the most prestigious among the numerous scientific accolades she has garnered alongside her American colleague, Drew Weissman.
In 2021, they jointly received one of the Breakthrough awards. Often referred to as the Oscars of science, it recognizes the same groundbreaking work honored today by the Nobel Foundation.
This marks the second time in the history of the Nobel Prize in Medicine that a vaccine has been honored. Prior to the mRNA technology enabling the Covid-19 vaccine, Max Theiler received the prize in 1951 for developing the yellow fever vaccine. Out of the 113 Nobel Prizes in Medicine awarded since 1901, seven have been related to discoveries about the immune system.
Born in 1955 in Hungary, in Szolnok, Katalin completed her doctoral studies at the University of Szeged. She continued her studies in the same city until 1985 and then moved to the United States, where 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, where she remained until 2013. She then transitioned to the private sector as the Vice President of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals. Since 2021, she holds a chair at the University of Szeged, where she initially studied, and another at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Drew Weissman’s Journey
Drew Weissman, 64 years old, was born in 1959 in the United States, in Lexington, Massachusetts. After completing his doctorate at the University of Boston in 1987, he worked at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School and later at the National Institutes of Health. Since 1997, Weissman has been working at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Both hailing from humble Eastern European backgrounds, they endured years of seemingly fruitless studies. It was Karikó’s husband who supported her in pursuing her dream of developing an mRNA-based vaccine.