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expert reaction to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

Dr Katalin Karikó and Dr Drew Weissman have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work on RNA vaccine development. 


Charlie Weller, Wellcome’s Head of Prevention, Infectious Disease, said:

“Having a range of different vaccines with different characteristics is crucial for the fight against infectious diseases. mRNA vaccines trigger an immune response to protect us against a pathogen using only its genetic code. The ability to rapidly produce these vaccines holds huge potential for epidemic and pandemic preparedness, as demonstrated with the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine.

“mRNA vaccines have been under development for decades – this scientific knowledge was harnessed to allow them to play a key role in slowing the Covid pandemic. The recognition of this work through the Nobel Prize highlights its importance, and the value of long-term investment in a variety of technological and scientific approaches to prevent outbreaks and protect those most vulnerable to escalating diseases.”


Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic affected each and every one of us, but through scientific and regulatory innovation and collaboration, we brought effective and very safe vaccines to the UK and came through it together.

“Today, the world congratulates Dr Katalin Kariko and Dr Drew Weissman, who have deservedly received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for the development of the technology behind the vaccines that continue to keep millions of people safe around the world.

“We’ve all learned what’s possible when we apply the collective strength of the brilliant life sciences sector, and agile, enabling regulation, to our common goal of providing the best benefit risk balance and health outcomes for patients and the public.”


Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Pandemic Sciences Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“It is wonderful to see years of painstaking and dedicated research on mRNA vaccines recognised in this 2023 Nobel Prize. Many congratulations, Katalin and Drew, for this recognition of your game-changing research.”


Dr Zoltán Kis, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield, said:

“Massive congratulations to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman! This is very well deserved for their hard and groundbreaking work. I had the pleasure of interacting with Prof. Karikó, her lifetime dedication to science and support of early career scientists is remarkable. This news is an excellent celebration of science and of the mRNA technology that offers substantial potential for improved health through the prevention and treatment of multiple diseases.”


Prof Sir Andrew Pollard FMedSci, Ashall Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity and Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford, said:

“It is absolutely right that the ground-breaking work on RNA led by Kariko and Weissman should be recognised by a Nobel Prize in view of the extraordinary advance that their scientific endeavours have made for vaccine development and for the impact of that work on human health in the pandemic.”


Professor David Attwell, President of The Physiological Society, said:

“On behalf of The Physiological Society I am delighted to congratulate Karikó and Weissman for being jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Their pioneering research into nucleoside base modifications forged the path for the life-saving mRNA vaccines that were rolled out worldwide to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Physiology helps us to understand how the body works in health and determine what goes wrong in disease. As such, physiology has been at the forefront of the search for answers at every stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the development of mRNA vaccines.”


Professor John Tregoning, Professor in Vaccine Immunology within the Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London, said:

“Kati Kariko is one of the most inspirational scientists I have met. The ideas that she and Drew Weismann developed were critical for the success of RNA vaccines.

“They demonstrated that changing the type of the RNA nucleotides within the vaccine altered the way in which cells see it. This increased the amount of vaccine protein made following the injection of the RNA, effectively increasing the efficiency of the vaccination: more response for less RNA.

“This was a vital building block of the success of the RNA vaccines in reducing disease and death during the pandemic. Their work shows the importance of basic, fundamental research in the path to solutions to the most pressing societal needs.”


Dr Brian Ferguson, University Associate Professor in Innate Immunity Division of Immunology, University of Cambridge, said:

“It is wonderful news that the Nobel Prize winners for medicine/physiology in 2023 are scientists who worked for decades building knowledge and understanding that underlies the design and manufacture of mRNA vaccines that saved so many lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. What is now recognised as a transformative technology required dedicated scientists to carry out fundamental research over many years to reach the position it was in 2020 when its rapid deployment as a vaccine technology was made possible by global collaboration. The work of Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman in the years prior to 2020 made this possible and they richly deserve this recognition.”


Prof Robin Shattock, Professor of Mucosal Infection and Immunity, Imperial College London, said:

“The seminal work of Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman in understanding of how to configure RNA to be effectively expressed was critical to the success of the highly effective mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. Their fundamental work in using modified nucleotides, the building blocks of RNA, to avoid activation of the innate immune system will be key to the successful use of future RNA vaccines and new RNA based medicines.”


Declared interests

Dr Brian Ferguson: No conflicts.

No reply to our request for DOIs was received.



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