2023 Nobel Prize for Medicine: mRNA Covid Vaccines

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The Nobel Prize committee has awarded its 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine to a pair of scientists, Professors Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman of U of Pennsylvania, who developed the technology that led to the mRNA Covid vaccines.

In an announcement the Nobel committee said “The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” BBC reports.

Quoting the Nobel Assembly, the POLITICO writes “Through their discoveries that base modifications both reduced inflammatory responses and increased protein production, Karikó and Weissman had eliminated critical obstacles on the way to clinical applications of mRNA.”

Professor Wiseman told the BBC’s Newshour program “I would go to meetings and present what I was working on, and people would look at me and say: ‘Well, that’s very nice, but why don’t you do something worthwhile with your time mRNA will never work.’. But Katie and I kept pushing.”

Professor Weissman added during the interview:

I was you know, sort of overjoyed and then disbelief, and a little bit suspecting that there was some anti-vaxxer playing a prank on us.

But when we saw the announcement, we knew it was real and there was just a fantastic feeling.”

The Politico reports “In the early 1990s, Karikó, from Hungary, was working at the University of Pennsylvania looking at how mRNA could be used in medicine. She was joined in her research by U.S. colleague Weissman, an immunologist specializing in dendritic cells, which are responsible for the body’s immune response during vaccination.”

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