Nobel Prize awarded to duo who made rapid covid vaccines possible

Katalin Karikó (left) and Drew Weissman’s (right) research into mRNA was used to develop covid-19 vaccinations. | Image: Nobel Prize

American scientists Katalin Karikó (a Hungarian-born biochemist) and Drew Weissman (an immunologist and professor of vaccine research) have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), which contributed towards the development of effective covid-19 vaccines (seen via The New York Times). mRNA vaccines have an advantage over traditional vaccines in that they can be quickly designed and safely manufactured at scale with fewer errors.

Seven years after they first met at the University of Pennsylvania in 1998, Karikó and Weissman published their findings on mRNA. The scientists found that they could add altered mRNA to cells, prompting them to create any protein they desired. These protein molecules, normally produced using a modified virus, would then stimulate an adaptive immune response to teach the body how to destroy invading pathogens. The trailblazing work was later used by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to develop competing covid vaccines in record time.

The prize is the first of six Nobel Prizes that will be awarded this year, with the remaining winners to be announced over the coming week. As the winnings — which are set at 11 million Swedish kronor (around $1 million USD) for 2023 — are awarded per full Nobel Prize, Karikó and Weissman will split the cash.

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