The winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine are Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. The award was given for discovering "nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19." The prize is worth 11 million Swedish kronor (around 1,002,000 US dollars at the time of publishing), which will be shared among the winners.
The award recognizes how these scientists have helped understand how to use mRNA to create a new type of vaccine. This technology proved to be a game-changer during the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is undeniable that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines saved millions of lives worldwide.
Professors Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman work on an RNA-mediated mechanism extended beyond the COVID-19 vaccine, and it has incredible potential for other treatments. The two also received the 2022 Breakthrough Prize for their work.
Speaking to IFLScience then, Professor Karikó noted that developing this RNA technology had to overcome significant challenges over the decades. But she stressed how the tech has now shown incredible potential. The mRNA tech is being seen as a crucial tool not just in fighting pathogens like coronaviruses, HIV, and Ebola, but also in treating diseases such as cancer and leukemia. The potential of this work is truly incredible.
“It is just up to the imagination of fellow scientists. They get an idea and then use the mRNA to explore whatever their idea is,” Professor Karikó told IFLScience.