Stockholm, 2nd of October 2023, The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning the mRNA molecule that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

Ill. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach

“The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” the award-giving Karolinska Institute said in their press release.

Being a natural molecule that serves as a template for the production of proteins in the human body, mRNA has been a point of interest in the field of novel vaccine production. However the lab-made mRNA that was used to instruct human cells to produce therapeutic proteins was considered unstable, difficult to deliver and triggered the immune system to cause an inflammatory attack.   

These obstacles didn’t discourage Kariko and Weismann who managed to track down the reasons why in-vitro transcribed mRNA was recognized as a foreign substance from the body. These discoveries created a shift in the understanding of how cells recognize and respond to different forms of mRNA and managed to eradicate the inflammatory response which was seen as the major obstacle in the therapeutic use of the technology.

Read more details in the press release linked below.