Penn’s Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research in Infectious Diseases and Katalin Karikó, PhD, adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, were jointly named winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Their groundbreaking and foundational research at Penn played a vital role in the development of modified mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered to billions of individuals globally, and helped to end the recent pandemic.
Karikó and Weissman first met at a copy machine at Penn during the late 1990s, while waiting to make copies of scientific journal articles. They quickly took an interest in each other’s research and agreed to work together to investigate the use of modified mRNA as a potentially new therapeutic modality. Their resultant collaborative research clearly established that mRNA could be precisely altered and then delivered in vivo without provoking deleterious effects from the body’s own immune system — an enormous advancement in the field of mRNA research that has opened up exciting new possibilities for vaccines and other types of therapeutic drug development.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Karikó and Weissman’s foundational mRNA discoveries were instrumental in helping to make live-saving vaccines possible. Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna utilized Karikó and Weissman’s technology as a key component of their highly effective vaccines to protect against severe illness and death from COVID-19.
In recognition of the remarkable impact of their technology, Nobel Foundation prize administrators reached out to Karikó and Weissman on the morning of October 02, 2023 to formally notify them of the news of their award. Since 1901, less than 1,000 people have received a Nobel Prize, and only 225 have been awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Further, Karikó is one of just 61 women to become a Nobel Laureate and only the 13th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Penn and PCI are incredibly proud to congratulate Dr. Weissman and Dr. Karikó for their incredible achievements and well-deserved honor!
There is wide range of in-depth coverage by the Philadelphia Inquirer, which you can read here:
- Philadelphia Inquirer, first article
- Philadelphia Inqurier, editorial
- Philadelphia Inquirer, vaccines and licensing revenue
- Philadelphia Inquirer, Drew Weissman’s story
- Philadelphia Inquirer, Katalin Karikó’s story, commentary
- Philadelphia Inquirer, Katalin Karikó’s story, health
- Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan Francia’s story (Karikó’s daughter)
Video content is available here:
- Video of Drew Weissman telling his parents
- Video of Drew Weissman’s first reaction
- Video of Katalin Karikó’s first reaction
Additional articles published in global publications are available here: