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The 2023 Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded, together with the Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó and the American immunologist Drew Weissman, the technology that made the first vaccines against the Covid-19 pandemic possible, already at the beginning of 2020. The discovery, notes the Nobel Foundation, has radically changed the understanding of how the messenger RNA molecule interacts with the immune system. Thanks to this great step forward, the two winners helped develop, “with unprecedented speed, a vaccine directed against one of the greatest threats to human health of modern times.”
The possibility of gene therapy based on messenger RNA was ignored by the scientific community for a long time, but Karikó never gave up and continued to carry out her research. And in the end, she won.
Karikò was born in 1955 in Szolnok, Hungary. He received his PhD from the University of Szeged in 1982 and carried out his postdoctoral studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Szeged until 1985. He subsequently continued his research in the USA, at Temple University in Philadelphia and at Bethesda University of Health Sciences. In 1989 she was appointed assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she remained until 2013. She then became vice president and then senior vice president of the German company BioNTech Rna Pharmaceuticals. Since 2021 she has been a professor at the University of Szeged and an adjunct professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Weissman was born in 1959 in Lexington, Massachusetts, United States. He received his medical degree and PhD from Boston University in 1987. He did his clinical training at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School and postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health ( Nih). In 1997 he founded his research group at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations.
After a chance meeting in the late 1990s while photocopying research papers, Karikó and Weissman began studying mRNA as a potential therapeutic. In 2005 they published a key discovery: mRNA could be altered and released effectively into the body to activate the immune system. Day after day, the 2023 Nobel winners worked tirelessly to unlock the power of mRNA as a therapeutic platform, not knowing how their work would serve to address a great challenge, the Covid pandemic, that the world would one day face. found himself facing.