In a groundbreaking acknowledgment, the Nobel Prize in medicine has been bestowed upon Dr. Drew Weissman, a Massachusetts native, and Katalin Karikó for their pivotal discoveries that paved the way for the development of highly effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The prestigious announcement was made by Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly, in Stockholm.
Weissman, 64, who hails from Lexington and graduated from Brandeis University in 1981, has left an indelible mark with his contributions. Having completed his M.D. and Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbiology from Boston University in 1987, Weissman is currently a professor in vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Karikó, 68, a professor at Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, collaborated with Weissman on the prizewinning research conducted at Penn.
Expressing his excitement about the future possibilities, Weissman commented, “We’ve been thinking for years about everything that we could do with RNA, and now it’s here.”
Karikó, equally thrilled, shared her surprise at the announcement, recounting how her husband was the first to answer the early morning call and hand the phone to her to receive the news. Ensuring she wasn’t being pranked, she then watched the official announcement. “I was very much surprised. But I am very happy,” she remarked.
Breaking the news to Weissman before the Nobel committee could reach him, Karikó highlighted their decades-long collaboration, with her focusing on the RNA side and Weissman delving into immunology. “We educated each other,” she added.
The Nobel Prize in medicine carries a substantial cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor ($1 million), sourced from a bequest left by the prize’s founder, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who passed away in 1896.
This recognition underscores the monumental impact of their contributions in the realm of mRNA vaccine development, not only addressing the current global health crisis but also charting a course for revolutionary advancements in medical science.