According to the Royal Swedish Academy’s announcement on Monday morning, Katalin Carrico and Drew Weissman have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing mRNA technology in 2023.
Katalin Karikó is a Hungarian biochemist living in the United States and an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In collaboration with Drew Weisman, they developed and patented the therapeutic use of mRNA containing modified nucleosides.
Drew Weisman is an American medical researcher and biochemist. He graduated from Brandeis University and later worked at the US Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under Anthony Fauci. Since 1997, he has been head of the Laboratory for RNA Research and Biology of the Immune System at the University of Pennsylvania.
After the coronavirus was discovered in December 2019, a global pandemic developed within months. Among the pharmaceutical companies working hard to produce a vaccine to prevent the serious consequences of the disease, Pfizer-BioNTech produced the first licensed vaccine. It took only one year to develop, test and start production. This pace was previously unimaginable, so the work of Carrico and Weissman enabled a civilizationally significant leap in vaccine development technology, which
Millions of human lives have been saved.
For this reason, the question was not if they would receive the Nobel Prize, but when. The Swedish Academy’s nomination committee usually considers anyone who wins at least two of the most prestigious academic awards. Carrico and Weissman received five of the most prestigious awards: the Horwitz, Wolff, Albany, Breakthrough, Lasker, and Gairdner awards.
2023 #Nobel prize The degree of Doctorate in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Katalin Carrico and Drew Weissman for their discoveries related to nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/Y62uJDlNMj
– Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 2, 2023
Cell lab keys
mRNA, or messenger RNA, is a substance that transmits information written in DNA and directs the production of proteins in cells. By circumventing this mechanism, cells can be induced to produce any protein by enzyme or antibody. This method can therefore be used not only against the Coronavirus and not only as a vaccine, but it can also be a potential tool in treating various genetic diseases and cancer.
For decades, mRNA technology has been scientifically isolated, with very little interest and even less support. The situation was so bad that by 1995 Carrico was considering leaving the area. In addition, the organism attacked foreign mRNA, and this problem was finally solved with Wiseman’s help, and its publication in 2005 was the first step on the path to establishing BioNTech and the vaccine.
To date, there are ten scientists and artists starting from Hungary who have won the most prestigious award, the Nobel Prize. Eight of them achieved their results after leaving their country, with Albert Sint-Gyorgy and Imre Kertesz winning the award on home soil. Katalin Karekó is the 11th Nobel laureate and the first from Hungary.
(Cover image: Katalin Carrico. Photo: Kata Nemeth/Index)