Penn Medicine Biochemist Katalin Karikó Adds Award to Collection for mRNA Vaccine Breakthrough

Katalin Kariko in the lab
Image via Penn Medicine.
Abington biochemist Katalin Karikó receives another award for her work in mRNA advancement that laid the foundation for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Abington biochemist Katalin Karikó receives another award for her pioneering work in mRNA advancement, writes John George for the Philadelphia Business Journal.  

She was presented the Bayh-Dole Coalition American Innovation Award in Washington, D.C. this week for her modified RNA technology that set the foundation for Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.  

Karikó’s journey began in Hungary, where she embarked on her studies in graduate school, focusing on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA).  

During her studies, Karikó moved across the Atlantic, accepting a position in the Biochemistry department at Temple University. By 1989, she had joined the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. 

However, her journey was not without hurdles. Karikó was unable to secure enough funding for her research and eventually got demoted just days following a cancer diagnosis.  

Fate intervened when she met her future collaborator Dr. Drew Weissman at an office copy machine. The pair went on to create a modified version of RNA that doesn’t produce inflammation.  

Thanks to the provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act, they partnered with Penn to patent their invention, publishing their research results in 2005. 

While their work initially was brushed aside by industry colleagues, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought it to the forefront. 

Read more about the Abington biochemist’s groundbreaking achievements in the Philadelphia Business Journal.  

The Story Behind mRNA COVID Vaccines: Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman

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