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Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Duo for Pioneering mRNA Vaccines Against COVID-19

by Andrew Wright
7 comments
Nobel Prize in Medicine

On Monday, two researchers were honored with the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their seminal contributions to the science behind mRNA vaccines, which have proved pivotal in combating COVID-19 and hold promise for future vaccine development.

Katalin Karikó, affiliated with Sagan’s University in Hungary and also serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, received the accolade for “their revolutionary research that has profoundly reshaped our understanding of how mRNA interfaces with the human immune system,” according to the committee responsible for the award.

The committee further elaborated that the recipients had “dramatically accelerated the pace of vaccine development amid one of the most severe threats to global health in recent history.”

Upon receiving the early morning call announcing the award, Karikó expressed disbelief and immense joy. “It was beyond my expectations, but I am tremendously pleased,” she stated.

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Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, vaccines using mRNA technology were already under clinical evaluation for diseases such as Zika, influenza, and rabies. “Clinical trials existed before the pandemic, but they were not widely recognized,” Karikó explained.

Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly, confirmed that both scientists were “astounded” upon hearing the news.

Traditional vaccine production methods often involve cultivating viruses or viral fragments in large cellular cultures or, in the case of many influenza vaccines, in chicken eggs. The process then necessitates further purification. The mRNA technique diverges significantly from this model, employing a strand of genetic material to instruct cells to produce proteins that act as antigens, effectively converting the human body into a vaccine-manufacturing facility.

Dr. Paul Hunter, a medicine professor at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, described mRNA vaccines as a “watershed moment” in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, and credited them with preserving millions of lives. “In the absence of mRNA technology, the impact of COVID-19 would have been far more devastating,” he noted.

Karikó previously held the position of Senior Vice President at BioNTech, the firm that collaborated with Pfizer to produce a leading COVID-19 vaccine. As of 2022, she serves as an external consultant. Weissman currently holds the title of Professor and Director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an expert in infectious diseases at Exeter University, highlighted the potential of mRNA technology to revolutionize not only infectious disease vaccines but also treatments for non-communicable diseases such as cancer. “The methodology allows for more targeted therapeutic interventions, thereby transforming how we manage both outbreaks and chronic conditions,” he stated.

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was conferred upon Swedish scientist Svante Paabo for groundbreaking work on Neanderthal DNA, offering crucial insights into human immunity, including susceptibilities to severe COVID-19.

The Nobel Prizes will proceed with announcements in physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday, and literature on Thursday. The Nobel Peace Prize will be unveiled on Friday, followed by the economics award on October 9.

Each Nobel Prize is accompanied by a financial reward of 11 million Swedish kronor (approximately $1 million), originating from an endowment established by Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor and prize founder, who passed away in 1896.

The awardees will receive their prizes in ceremonies on December 10, marking the anniversary of Nobel’s passing. While the Peace Prize is distributed in Oslo as per Nobel’s specific request, the other awards are presented in Stockholm.


Reporting from The Hague, Netherlands by Corder.


For comprehensive coverage of Nobel Prizes, visit https://bigbignews.net/nobel-prizes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nobel Prize in Medicine

Who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for contributions to mRNA vaccines?

Katalin Karikó, affiliated with Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their contributions to the development of mRNA vaccines.

What was the key achievement that led to their Nobel Prize win?

The key achievement was their revolutionary research that has profoundly reshaped our understanding of how mRNA interfaces with the human immune system, thereby enabling the rapid development of vaccines for COVID-19 and holding promise for future vaccine technology.

Were mRNA vaccines already in development before COVID-19?

Yes, mRNA vaccines were under clinical evaluation for diseases such as Zika, influenza, and rabies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis, however, brought significant attention to this approach, according to Katalin Karikó.

How does mRNA technology differ from traditional vaccine development methods?

Traditional vaccine development typically involves cultivating viruses or viral fragments in large cellular cultures or chicken eggs. In contrast, mRNA technology employs a strand of genetic material to instruct cells to produce proteins that act as antigens, effectively converting the body into a vaccine-manufacturing facility.

What potential does mRNA technology have beyond COVID-19?

According to Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an expert in infectious diseases, mRNA technology holds the potential to revolutionize treatments for not only infectious diseases like Ebola, malaria, and dengue, but also non-communicable diseases such as certain types of cancer and auto-immune diseases like lupus.

What is the financial reward associated with the Nobel Prize in Medicine?

The Nobel Prize in Medicine carries a financial reward of 11 million Swedish kronor, which is approximately $1 million.

When and where will the Nobel Prize awards ceremony take place?

The Nobel Prize awards ceremony is scheduled for December 10, which is the anniversary of the prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death. While the Peace Prize ceremony takes place in Oslo, the ceremony for the other awards, including Medicine, is held in Stockholm.

More about Nobel Prize in Medicine

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7 comments

Sarah Williams October 2, 2023 - 9:50 pm

i’m not surprised at all. been following Karikó’s work for years and she’s brilliant. it’s about time she got the recognition she deserves.

Reply
Mike Thompson October 3, 2023 - 1:25 am

Wow, this is huge news! Always knew mRNA tech was a game changer. Karikó and Weissman really deserve this one, they literally saved millions of lives. Hats off!

Reply
David Brown October 3, 2023 - 1:27 am

Is anyone else intrigued by how Nobel prizes get announced? I mean, all these different categories and then the ceremony in December. It’s like the Oscars for smart people.

Reply
William Johnson October 3, 2023 - 4:49 am

Guys, did you read about the potential of mRNA beyond just COVID? We’re talking about cancer and other diseases. This is revolutionary stuff!

Reply
Emily Carter October 3, 2023 - 5:43 am

so the prize money is a million dollars? that’s a lotta cash, but tbh, considering how their work changed the world, they should get more.

Reply
Robert Lee October 3, 2023 - 7:08 am

Isn’t it crazy how the pandemic actually accelerated scientific discoveries? Like, mRNA vaccines were there but COVID just put em on the map. science works in mysterious ways i guess.

Reply
Lucia Martinez October 3, 2023 - 9:14 am

Katalin Karikó is the 13th woman to win in medicine. Only the 13th?! We need more women in science, just look at what they can accomplish.

Reply

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