Massachusetts native, Dr. Drew Weissman and Dr. Katalin Karikó won the 2023 Nobel Prize for medicine in Stockholm, Sweden on October 2. The duo received the prize in recognition of their groundbreaking findings in regard to mRNA.
mRNA sound familiar?
mRNA is the messenger protein that was integral to developing the Covid-19 vaccines. However, the duo’s research dates long before Covid. They originally started research on mRNA in the early 2000s.
The doctor duo met at the University of Pennsylvania where, Weissman was developing vaccines and Karikó was an early advocate for mRNA. The pair found a way to modify the mRNA code so it could enter cells without being destroyed. The major caveat of mRNA at the time, was that it was destroyed before it could even have a chance to enter cells.
This discovery that won them the Nobel Prize, published in 2005, was one of the main factors that catalyzed the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Today, doctors are experimenting with mRNA as a major factor in gene therapy for sickle cell disease, personalized cancer treatments and finding key insights to the body’s immune system.
Weissman has many ties to Mass. He was born in raised in Lexington, graduated from Brandeis undergrad in Waltham, attended Boston University Medical School, and completed his medical residency at Beth Israel Deaconess.
This is a huge win for the Boston medical community. The Nobel Prize award value is 11 million Swedish kronor, $1 million. The winners are invited for a ceremony in Oslo on December 10.