And the winner is… Covid vaccines! Nobel Prize for Medicine goes to US-born scientist and Hungarian peer who helped create game-changing mRNA jabs

  • Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman shared the coveted Nobel Prize award today 
  • The duo were credited with helping to change the course of the Covid pandemic 

A US-born scientist and Hungarian peer were today awarded the Nobel Prize for developing the technology that led to the mRNA Covid vaccines. 

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman shared the coveted award for their discoveries concerning ‘nucleoside base modifications’ that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against Covid.

The duo were credited with helping to change the course of the Covid pandemic.

Katalin Karikó is a professor at Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Drew Weissman performed his prizewinning research together with Professor Karikó at the University of Pennsylvania. 

‘Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,’ the panel that awarded the prize said.

mRNA Covid vaccines which have saved millions of lives during the pandemic were thought to be the frontrunners after missing out on the prestigious award last year.

The same mRNA technology is now being researched for other diseases and even cancer. 

Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee, announced this year’s winner at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

He told the ceremony both scientists were ‘overwhelmed’ by news of the prize when he contacted them shortly before the announcement.  

Past winners in the field include a string of famous researchers, notably Alexander Fleming, who shared the 1945 prize for the discovery of penicillin.

The prizes carry a cash award of 11million Swedish kronor ($1million). 

The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896. 

Last year, the Medicine Prize went to Professor Svante Pääbo who discovered that Neanderthals are still alive after proving interbreeding occurred between Homo Sapiens and our closest ancient relatives. 

Neanderthal DNA provided key insights into our immune system, including our vulnerability to severe Covid.

The award was the second in the family. Paabo’s father, Sune Bergstrom, won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1982.

The Nobel season continues this week with the announcement of the winners of the Physics Prize on Tuesday and the Chemistry Prize on Wednesday.

They will be followed by the much-anticipated prizes for Literature on Thursday and Peace on Friday.

The Economics Prize winds things up on Monday, October 9.