Dr. Katalin Kariko, an Abington resident, has been recognized with a Lasker award for her pioneering mRNA work that proved crucial in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, writes Gina Kolata for The New York Times.
The Lasker award is one of the most prestigious prizes in medicine and it is common for Lasker winners to go on to receive the Nobel Prize.
Kariko, a senior vice president at BioNTech, shared this year’s Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award with Dr. Drew Weissman, a University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine professor in vaccine research.
Kariko and Weissman made a breakthrough in 2005 when they discovered they could alter mRNA – which provides instructions to cells to make proteins – and add them to cells to briefly prompt them to make any protein they chose.
However, their published paper did not draw much attention so Kariko and Weissman struggled to find funds to continue their research. Then, Moderna and BioNTech took notice of their work.
When the pandemic started, both companies began working on a vaccine using mRNA technology and subsequently created strikingly effective vaccines in record time.
Karikó immigrated from Hungary to Philadelphia in 1985 with her husband and daughter.
Read more about Katalin Kariko in The New York Times.