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Rockville, Md. (October 2, 2022)—The American Physiological Society (APS) extends congratulations to Katalin Karikó, PhD, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the 2023 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This highest honor in modern science recognizes work that led to swift development of COVID-19 vaccines.  

“The discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020. 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 Nobel Assembly wrote in a statement.

Katalin Karikó, PhD, is a professor at Szeged University in Hungary and has a joint appointment as adjunct professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her PhD from Szeged University and completed postdoctoral research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Temple University in Philadelphia, and the University of Health Science, in Bethesda, Maryland. Her work has focused on using messenger RNA (mRNA)—a single strand of RNA that gives the cells instructions for making proteins—as a therapeutic tool.

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations. He earned his MD and PhD degrees from Boston University, completed clinical training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston and performed postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. As an immunologist, Weissman’s interest in the role of dendritic cells in the immune system led to his work on an HIV vaccine. Weissman and Karikó met and began to research mRNA vaccines together in 1998.

“The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine highlights the importance of physiology in understanding life and health. mRNA vaccines mimic basic principles of molecular and cellular physiology that cells utilize to protect their own mRNA from degradation to introduce the genetic blueprints for viral proteins, thus allowing to train the human immune system and to protect our organism from severe infection and multi-organ dysfunction,” Wolfgang Kübler, PhD, FAPS, APS Publications Committee chair, said in a statement.

“Today's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recognizes the discoveries of Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, whose groundbreaking research on nucleic acids provided the foundation for the development of life-saving mRNA vaccines. Their research, published some 15 years before the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrates the importance of investing in research that advances fundamental knowledge. Congratulations to Karikó and Weissman for this honor,” said APS Chief Science Officer Dennis Brown, PhD, FAPS.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview, please contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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