Hungarian-born Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman of the US have won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research that led directly to the first mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna to fight COVID-19, the Nobel organization has announced.
The Nobel Assembly, consisting of 50 professors at Karolinska Institutet, awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Its Nobel Committee evaluates the nominations. Since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded to scientists who have made the most important discoveries for the benefit of humankind.
“The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” the jury said in Sweden’s capital Stockholm on Monday.
This is not the first prize for the pair. They also won the title of Time Magazine’s Hero of the Year 2021.
Katalin Kariko is a professor at Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Drew Weissman conducted his prizewinning research together with Kariko at the University of Pennsylvania.
The pair will receive their prize, consisting of a diploma, a gold medal and a $1m cheque, from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.
The frontrunners for this year’s award in medicine included Kevan Shokat, an American biologist who figured out how to block the KRAS cancer gene behind a third of cancers, including challenging-to-treat lung, colon, and pancreatic tumours.
Two American biologists, Stanislas Leibler and Michael Elowitz, were also in the running for their work on synthetic gene circuits which established the field of synthetic biology.
It enables scientists to redesign organisms by engineering them to have new abilities.
The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was won last year by Swedish scientist Svante Paabo for discoveries in human evolution that unlocked secrets of Neanderthal DNA which provided key insights into our immune system, including our vulnerability to severe COVID-19.
Previous winners of the prize include many famous names including Sir Frederick Banting who discovered insulin, and Sir Alexander Fleming, who shared the prize for the discovery of penicillin.
Sources: Al Jazeera,