Hungarian-born Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman of the US have won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research that led directly to the first mRNA vaccines to fight COVID-19, made by Pfizer and Moderna, according to the awarding body.
“The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” the jury said in Sweden’s capital Stockholm on Monday.
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Katalin Kariko is a professor at Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Drew Weissman conducted his prizewinning research together with Kariko at the University of Pennsylvania.
The pair will receive their prize, consisting of a diploma, a gold medal and a $1m cheque, from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.
The frontrunners for this year’s award in medicine included Kevan Shokat, an American biologist who figured out how to block the KRAS cancer gene behind a third of cancers, including challenging-to-treat lung, colon, and pancreatic tumours.
Two American biologists, Stanislas Leibler and Michael Elowitz, were also in the run for their work on synthetic gene circuits which established the field of synthetic biology.
It enables scientists to redesign organisms by engineering them to have new abilities.
The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was won last year by Swedish scientist Svante Paabo for discoveries in human evolution that unlocked secrets of Neanderthal DNA which provided key insights into our immune system, including our vulnerability to severe COVID-19.
The physics prize will be announced on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and literature on Thursday. The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award on October 9.