Abington Scientist Katalin Kariko One of Time Magazine’s 2021 Heroes of the Year

Katalin Kariko

Abington’s Katalin Kariko is one of the Heroes of the Year, a group of scientists who introduced an innovative and highly effective mRNA-based vaccine platform to the world that will have a huge impact on our health and well-being far beyond COVID-19, write Alice Park and Jamie Ducharme for Time.

Time Heroes of the Year Cover
Clockwise from top right: Katalin Kariko, Barney Graham, Kizzmekia Corbett, and Drew Weissman.

Kariko, a Hungary native, made RNA her life’s obsession. She focused specifically on messenger RNA, as she believed it could be modified and then used to teach the body to become its own drug-making factory for various diseases.

She emigrated to the United States with her family, where she pursued mRNA research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Still, after years of work with little result, Penn demoted her and cut off her funding.

Things changed in the late 1990s when she met immunologist and physician Drew Weissman. The pair joined forces and eventually made a breakthrough.

They reported their findings in 2005, but it took 15 years for the global science community to realize the importance of their discoveries.

The COVID-19 vaccines created using their research showcased 90 percent efficacy, and were able to stymy the spread of the devastating SARS-CoV-2 virus for the first time.

Read more about Katalin Kariko in Time.