|Alma mater||University of Szeged|
|Known for||mRNA technology in immunology and therapies|
|Awards||Rosenstiel Award (2020)|
Széchenyi Prize (2021)
Wilhelm Exner Medal (2021)
Princess of Asturias Award (2021)
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2021)
Albany Medical Center Prize (2021)
Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2021)
Grande Médaille (2021)
L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award (2022)
Vilcek Prize for Excellence (2022)
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2022)
Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (2022)
|Fields||Biochemistry; RNA technologies|
|Institutions||University of Szeged|
University of Pennsylvania
Katalin Karikó (Hungarian: Karikó Katalin, pronounced [ˈkɒrikoː ˌkɒtɒlin]; born 17 January 1955) is a Hungarian biochemist who specializes in RNA-mediated mechanisms. Her research has been the development of in vitro-transcribed mRNA for protein therapies. She co-founded and was CEO of RNARx, from 2006 to 2013. Since 2013, she has been associated with BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals, first as a vice president and promoted to senior vice president in 2019. She also is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Karikó's work includes the scientific research of RNA-mediated immune activation, resulting in the co-discovery with American immunologist Drew Weissman of the nucleoside modifications that suppress the immunogenicity of RNA. This is seen as further contribution to the therapeutic use of mRNA. Together with Weissman, she holds U.S. patents for the application of non-immunogenic, nucleoside-modified RNA. This technology has been licensed by BioNTech and Moderna to develop their protein replacement technologies but was also used for their COVID-19 vaccines. She and Weissman have received many awards including the prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.
Early life and education
Karikó grew up in Kisújszállás, Hungary, in a small home without running water, a refrigerator, or television. Her father was a butcher and her mother was a bookkeeper. She excelled in science during her primary education. She attended Móricz Zsigmond Református Gimnázium.
After earning her Ph.D. at the University of Szeged, Karikó continued her research and postdoctoral studies at the Institute of Biochemistry, Biological Research Centre of Hungary. In 1985, the lab lost its funding, and she left Hungary for the United States with her husband and 2-year daughter. They smuggled in a teddy bear £900 received on the black market in exchange for the proceeds from selling a car.
Between 1985 and 1988, while serving as postdoctoral fellow at Temple University in Philadelphia and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD, (88-89) Karikó participated in a clinical trial in which patients with AIDS, hematologic diseases, and chronic fatigue syndrome were treated with double stranded RNA (dsRNA). At the time, this was considered groundbreaking research, as the molecular mechanism of interferon induction by dsRNA was not known, although the antiviral and antineoplastic effects of interferon were well documented.
In 1989, she was hired by the University of Pennsylvania and worked with cardiologist Elliot Barnathan on messenger RNA. In 1990, while an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Karikó submitted her first grant application in which she proposed to establish mRNA-based gene therapy. Ever since, mRNA-based therapy has been Karikó's primary research interest. She was on track to become full professor, but grant rejections led to her being demoted by the university in 1995. She stayed on and in 1997, she met Drew Weissman, professor of immunology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her persistence was noted as exceptional against the norms of academic research work conditions.
Karikó's key insight came about after she focused on why transfer RNA used as a control in an experiment did not provoke the same immune reaction as messenger RNA. In a series of articles beginning in 2005, Karikó and Weissman described how specific nucleoside modifications in mRNA led to a reduced immune response. They founded a small company and, in 2006 and 2013, received patents for the use of several modified nucleosides to reduce the antiviral immune response to mRNA. Soon afterward, the university sold the intellectual property license to Gary Dahl, the head of a lab supply company that eventually became Cellscript. Weeks later, Flagship Pioneering, the venture capital company backing Moderna, contacted her to license the patent. All Karikó said was “we don't have it”. In early 2013, Karikó heard of Moderna's $240 million deal with AstraZeneca to develop a VEGF mRNA. Karikó realized that she would not get a chance to apply her experience with mRNA at the University of Pennsylvania, so she took a role as vice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals (and subsequently became a senior vice president in 2019).
The work and research of Karikó was a foundation for BioNTech and Moderna to create therapeutic mRNAs that do not induce an immune response. In 2020, the Karikó and Weissman technology was however also used within vaccines for COVID-19 that were produced by Pfizer (developed by BioNTech) and by Moderna.
US8278036B2 & US8748089B2 – This invention provides RNA, oligoribonucleotide, and polyribonucleotide molecules comprising pseudouridine or a modified nucleoside, gene therapy vectors comprising same, methods of synthesizing same, and methods for gene replacement, gene therapy, gene transcription silencing, and the delivery of therapeutic proteins to tissue in vivo, comprising the molecules. The present invention also provides methods of reducing the immunogenicity of RNA, oligoribonucleotide, and polyribonucleotide molecules.
Awards and honors
1975 – 2020
- 1975 – 1978: Népköztársasági ösztöndíj
- 2009: Kisújszállás városának Tiszteletbeli Polgára
- 2020: Kisújszállás díszpolgára
- 2020: Public Media Person Of The Year Award
- 2020: Rosenstiel Award
- 2021: Albany Medical Center Prize
- 2021: Bill Foege Award
- 2021: Bolyai Prize
- 2021: Building the Foundation Award
- 2021: Fodor József Plaque
- 2021: For Human Dignity Award
- 2021: Forbes No. 1 (entrepreneurs, leaders, scientists, creators; 50+)
- 2021: Golden Goose Award
- 2021: Grande Médaille
- 2021: Hawking Lecture Cambridge
- 2021: Honorary Citizen of Csongrád-Csanád county
- 2021: Honorary Citizen of Szeged
- 2021: Honorary Doctor of Duke University
- 2021: Honorary Doctor of University of Szeged
- 2021: Hungarian Spirit Award
- 2021: Janssen Award
- 2021: Jedlik Ányos Award
- 2021: John Scott Medal
- 2021: Keio Prize
- 2021: Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award
- 2021: Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize
- 2021: National Inventors Hall of Fame
- 2021: New York Academy of Medicine
- 2021: Novo Nordisk Prize
- 2021: Princess of Asturias Award in the category "Scientific Research" 
- 2021: Princess Marina Sturdza Award
- 2021: Reichstein Medal
- 2021: Research!America 2021 Outstanding Achievment in Public Health Awards
- 2021: Semmelweis Prize
- 2021: Straub Plaque
- 2021: Széchenyi Prize
- 2021: Theodor Boveri Award
- 2021: Time 100
- 2021: Wilhelm Exner Medal
- 2022: Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
- 2022: Deutscher Immunologie-Preis
- 2022: L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award
- 2022: Paul Ehrlich- and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize
- 2022: Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology
- Anderson, Bart R.; Muramatsu, Hiromi; Nallagatla, Subba R.; Bevilacqua, Philip C.; Sansing, Lauren H.; Weissman, Drew; Karikó, Katalin (September 2010). "Incorporation of pseudouridine into mRNA enhances translation by diminishing PKR activation". Nucleic Acids Research. 38 (17): 5884–92. doi:10.1093/nar/gkq347. PMC 2943593. PMID 20457754.
- Karikó, Katalin; Muramatsu, Hiromi; Welsh, Frank A.; Ludwig, János; Kato, Hiroki; Akira, Shizuo; Weissman, Drew (November 2008). "Incorporation of pseudouridine into mRNA yields superior nonimmunogenic vector with increased translational capacity and biological stability". Molecular Therapy. 16 (11): 1833–40. doi:10.1038/mt.2008.200. PMC 2775451. PMID 18797453.
- Karikó, Katalin; Buckstein, Michael; Ni, Houping; Weissman, Drew (August 2005). "Suppression of RNA recognition by Toll-like receptors: the impact of nucleoside modification and the evolutionary origin of RNA". Immunity. 23 (2): 165–75. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2005.06.008. PMID 16111635.
- Karikó, Katalin; Weissman, Drew; Welsh, Frank A. (November 2004). "Inhibition of toll-like receptor and cytokine signaling – a unifying theme in ischemic tolerance". Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. 24 (11): 1288–304. doi:10.1097/01.WCB.0000145666.68576.71. PMID 15545925.
- Karikó, Katalin; Ni, Houping; Capodici, John; Lamphier, Marc; Weissman, Drew (March 2004). "mRNA is an endogenous ligand for Toll-like receptor 3". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 279 (13): 12542–50. doi:10.1074/jbc.M310175200. PMID 14729660. S2CID 27215118.
Karikó is married to Béla Francia. They are the parents of two-time Olympic gold medalist Susan Francia. Their grandson, Alexander Bear Amos, was born in the U.S. in February 2021 to their daughter and son-in-law, architect Ryan Amos. Karikó was able to be present for her grandson's birth.
In April 2021, The New York Times featured her career that laid the groundwork for mRNA vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 10, 2021, The Daily podcast from The New York Times highlighted Kariko's career, emphasizing the many challenges she had to overcome before her work was recognized.
- RNA vaccine
- BNT162b2, COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer BioNtech
- Uğur Şahin – oncologist
- Özlem Türeci – German physician, scientist and entrepreneur
- "Katalin Karikó". 8th International mRNA Health Conference. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
- Keener AB (September 2018). "Just the messenger". Nature Medicine. 24 (9): 1297–1300. doi:10.1038/s41591-018-0183-7. PMID 30139958. S2CID 52074565.
- Karikó, Katalin; Buckstein, Michael; Ni, Houping; Weissman, Drew (1 August 2005). "Suppression of RNA Recognition by Toll-like Receptors: The Impact of Nucleoside Modification and the Evolutionary Origin of RNA". Immunity. 23 (2): 165–175. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2005.06.008. PMID 16111635.
- Anderson BR, Muramatsu H, Nallagatla SR, Bevilacqua PC, Sansing LH, Weissman D, Karikó K (September 2010). "Incorporation of pseudouridine into mRNA enhances translation by diminishing PKR activation". Nucleic Acids Research. 38 (17): 5884–92. doi:10.1093/nar/gkq347. PMC 2943593. PMID 20457754.
- Karikó K, Muramatsu H, Welsh FA, Ludwig J, Kato H, Akira S, Weissman D (November 2008). "Incorporation of pseudouridine into mRNA yields superior nonimmunogenic vector with increased translational capacity and biological stability". Molecular Therapy. 16 (11): 1833–40. doi:10.1038/mt.2008.200. PMC 2775451. PMID 18797453.
- Kollewe, Julia (21 November 2020). "Covid vaccine technology pioneer: 'I never doubted it would work'". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
- Garde, Damian; Saltzman, Jonathan (10 November 2020). "The story of mRNA: From a loose idea to a tool that may help curb Covid". STAT. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
- Johnson, Carolyn Y. (1 October 2021). "A one-way ticket. A cash-stuffed teddy bear. A dream decades in the making". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- Kolata, Gina (8 April 2021). "Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
- "Katalin Kariko, the scientist behind the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine". France 24. 18 December 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
- "Covid vaccine technology pioneer: 'I never doubted it would work'". The Guardian. 11 November 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
- Schwarz-Romond, Thomas (7 November 2016). "Transforming RNA research into future treatments: Q&A with 2 biotech leaders". Elsevier Connect. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
- Cox, David (2 December 2020). "How mRNA went from a scientific backwater to a pandemic crusher". Wired. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
- Scales, David (12 February 2021). "How Our Brutal Science System Almost Cost Us A Pioneer Of mRNA Vaccines". WBUR-FM. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
- US 8278036, Kariko K, Weissman D, "RNA containing modified nucleosides and methods of use thereof", issued 21 August 2006, assigned to University of Pennsylvania
- US 8748089, Kariko K, Weissman D, "RNA containing modified nucleosides and methods of use thereof", issued 15 March 2013, assigned to University of Pennsylvania
- Tudományegyetem, Szegedi (9 April 2020). "Szegedi Tudományegyetem | A koronavírus elleni legígéretesebb vakcinafejlesztés megalapozója Karikó Katalin, az SZTE alumnusa". u-szeged.hu (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- Újszállási Rácz Lajos: Újszállási találkozunk Az 1975. május 31-én alakult öregdiákok baráti köre tiszteletére, 137. o. (2015)
- "Önkormányzati kitüntetettek" [Municipal honorees]. kisujszallas.hu (in Hungarian). Retrieved 27 May 2021.
- "Karikó Katalin biokémikus kapta az első Közmédia Év Embere Díjat" [Biochemist Katalin Karikó received the first Public Media Man of the Year Award]. Duna Médiaszolgáltató (in Hungarian). 5 January 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
- "Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research". Brandeis University. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
- "Press Release". www.amc.edu. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
- "Bill Foege Global Health Awards - 2021". www.map.org. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Karikó Katalin kapja idén a Bolyai-díjat". telex.hu (in Hungarian). 1 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- Building the Foundation Award 2021
- "A MAGYAR HIGIÉNIKUSOK TÁRSASÁGA EMLÉKÜLÉST TARTOTT". nnk.gov.hu (in Hungarian). 20 May 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Rangos elismerést kap Magyarországon Karikó Katalin" [Katalin Karikó receives prestigious recognition in Hungary]. Magyar Nemzet (in Hungarian). 12 February 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
- "50 Over 50 2021". Forbes. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- "2021: Making mRNA". The Golden Goose Award. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Karikó Katalin újabb fontos tudományos díjat kapott". index.hu (in Hungarian). 28 September 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Communiqué de presse : Katalin Karikó lauréate de la Grande Médaille 2021 de l'Académie des sciences | Communiqués de presse | Presse | Transmettre les connaissances". www.academie-sciences.fr. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- "Cambridge Union launches first-ever scholarship programme for STEM students". Varsity Online. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- Szabó, Viktor (12 March 2021). "Karikó Katalin lett Csongrád-Csanád megye díszpolgára" [Katalin Karikó became an honorary citizen of Csongrád-Csanád county]. promenad.hu (in Hungarian). Retrieved 14 April 2021.
- "BioNTech's Karikó to Receive Honorary Citizenship of Szeged". hungarytoday.hu. 20 January 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
- "Meet the Honorary Degree Recipients for the 2020 Commencement". today.duke.edu. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "BioNTech's Karikó to be awarded honorary doctorate by University of Szeged". dailynewshungary.com. 27 January 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
- "Újabb tengeren túli elismerésben részesült Karikó Katalin" [Katalin Karikó received another overseas accolade]. ripost.hu (in Hungarian). 4 February 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
- "Two Pioneering RNA Scientists Win the 2021 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research". Content Lab U.S. 28 September 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Átadták az idei Jedlik Ányos-díjakat". sztnh.gov.hu (in Hungarian). 9 June 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- Penn RNA scientists win Philly’s Scott award for research used in COVID-19 vaccines Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman have won more than a dozen honors for their research. The Philadelphia Inquirer --- October 4, 2021 https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/kariko-weissman-award-john-scott-philly-20210930.html
- "The 2021 Keio Medical Science Prize Awardees - Keio Medical Science Prize - Keio University Medical Science Fund". www.ms-fund.keio.ac.jp. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award
- "Penn mRNA Scientists Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó Receive 2021 Lasker Award, America's Top Biomedical Research Prize - Penn Medicine". www.pennmedicine.org. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- "Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman Awarded Horwitz Prize for Pioneering Research on COVID-19 Vaccines". Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 12 August 2021. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
- "The Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize". Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 14 June 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- "Katalin Karikó | The National Inventors Hall of Fame". www.invent.org. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Home | New York Academy of Medicine". www.nyam.org. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- Bloomberg / 2021-09-23https://www.bloomberg.com/press-releases/2021-09-23/recipients-of-the-novo-nordisk-prize-played-major-role-in-the-research-and-development-of-the-covid-19-mrna-vaccine
- Princess of Asturias Award 2021
- "Sir Suma Chakrabarti and Katalin Karikó winners of Emerging Europe's Remarkable Achievement Awards for 2021". Emerging Europe. 10 August 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Katalin Karikó – Hohe Schweizer Auszeichnung für Erfinderin des mRNA-Impfstoffs". 20 Minuten (in German). 17 June 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
- "Building the Foundation Through mRNA Research". Research!America. 9 July 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Karikó Katalin megkapta a legrangosabb magyar orvosi díjat" [Katalin Karikó received the most prestigious Hungarian medical award]. hvg.hu (in Hungarian). 25 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
- "Straub-plakettel tüntette ki egykori munkahelye Karikó Katalint". szeged.hu (in Hungarian). 19 May 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- Balogh, Krisztina (15 March 2021). "Karikó Katalin és Merkely Béla is Széchenyi-díjat kapott" [Katalin Karikó and Béla Merkely also received the Széchenyi Prize]. index.hu (in Hungarian). Retrieved 21 March 2021.
- "The Woman Behind the Vaccine Breakthrough". www.uni-wuerzburg.de. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Katalin Kariko: The 100 Most Influential People of 2021". Time. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Auszeichnung: Biontech-Forschungsleiterin Katalin Karikó erhält Exner-Medaille" [Award: Biontech Director of Research Katalin Karikó receives Exner-Medal]. Wiener Zeitung (in German). 18 March 2021. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
- "Wilhelm Exner Medaillen 2021 an Katalin Karikó und Luisa Torsi". OTS.at (in German). 18 March 2021. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
- "Aktuelles". Wilhelm Exner Medaillen Stiftung (in German). Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- "Press Release". Breakthrough Prize Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
- Deutscher Immunologie-Preis 2021
- "L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science recognize five women researchers for pioneering work in environmental and life sciences". unesco.org. 30 September 2021. Retrieved 30 September 2021.
- Wedia. "BioNTech scientists honoured with prestigious German medical prize". IamExpat. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
- "Dr. Katalin Karikó receives 2022 Vilcek Prize for Excellence for pioneering vaccine research". Vilcek Foundation. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
- Krisztina, Balogh (25 February 2021). "Nagymama lett Karikó Katalin". index.hu (in Hungarian). Retrieved 8 March 2021.
- "Csodaszép Karikó Katalin unokája" [Katalin Karikó's beautiful grandson]. szeged.hu (in Hungarian). 1 March 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
- Barbaro, Michael (10 June 2021). "The Unlikely Pioneer Behind mRNA Vaccines". The Daily (Podcast). The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
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