Professors Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman have been given the 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries that allowed for the creation of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
The Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute Medical University chooses the winner of this award, one of the most prominent in the scientific community.
Prior to 2022, Kariko served as senior vice president and director of RNA protein replacement at BioNTech. Since then, she has served as an advisor to the business. She also teaches at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Szeged in Hungary. Professor of vaccine research at the Perelman School, Weissman is an American Jew.
Kariko has discovered a mechanism to stop the immune system from mounting an inflammatory response against laboratory-produced mRNA, which was previously thought to be a significant barrier to any therapeutic use of mRNA.
She and Weissman demonstrated in 2005 that modifications to nucleosides, the molecular letters that form the genetic coding of the mRNA, can prevent the mRNA from being detected by the immune system.
“This year’s Nobel Prize recognizes their basic science discovery that fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with the immune system and had a major impact on society during the recent pandemic,” said Rickard Sandberg, a member of the Nobel Assembly from the Karolinska Institute.
Approximately 10 million Swedish Krowns—the equivalent of $900,000—will be split between the two researchers. “I got both of them, and they were thrilled. It was wonderful to speak with them, the judge’s panel secretary added.
“This time, I questioned Katalin about whether she was surprised by the award since I had a sneaking suspicion she wouldn’t be. Drew was similar. He was appreciative. A few seconds before the announcement, I chatted with him.
The first of this year’s honors, the medical prize, will be announced soon, followed by the other five. The Nobel Prizes were established in 1901 by Swedish dynamite inventor and affluent businessman Alfred Nobel. They are given out for accomplishments in science, literature, and peace, with economics being included in later years.
On December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s passing, the Swedish king will bestow the awards at a ceremony in Stockholm that will be followed by a spectacular supper at city hall.