2021. September 24., Friday
News  --  Archive  --  2021


Katalin Karikó and her Research Partner Awarded the "Scientific Oscar" Award

The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines was made possible by modified RNA technology, a world-changing discovery by the research team of Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. This will be recognised by the 2022 Breakthrough Award, which honours mRNA pioneers in the life sciences category, announced on 9 September 2021. The award, which comes with a cash prize of $3 million, is also known as the “Scientific Oscar Award”.

The most important discovery of the 21st century was made by Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. Their mRNA-based technology and vaccines laid the foundations for the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Breakthrough Prize has been awarded since 2012. Among the people recognised so far are the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and the first Hungarian scientist to be honoured is Katalin Karikó, an Alumna of the University of Szeged (SZTE).

The "Breakthrough Prize" is awarded annually in three categories - physiology, physics and mathematics. It recognises "paradigm-shifting research in science". It is the world's largest scientific award with a cash prize of $3-3 million per category. Also known as the "Scientific Oscar" award, the award for science researchers was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, among others.

Katalin Karikó studied biology at the University of Szeged between 1973-1978. She was awarded the title of Doctor of Biochemistry in 1982 after working as a researcher at the Biological Research Centre in Szeged. She started working with Drew Weissman at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Their scientific discovery in 2005 is considered as a landmark in research. Their publication pointed out how mRNA can be modified without causing inflammation and can be used for therapeutic purposes. They also developed an efficient strategy to deliver mRNA into the body to reach the right target. The Karikó-Weissman research team paved the way for the creation of life-saving vaccines when the COVID-19 pandemic stunned the world in 2020. The mRNA-based vaccine is used in nearly 200 countries around the world.

For their innovative collaboration and discoveries, the two researchers jointly won the Rosenstiel and Horwitz Prizes, the "road to a Nobel Prize". On 9 September 2021 it was announced that Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman will be awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the world's largest cash prize in science. This is the 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

SZTE Experience


Ferdous Rahman – Faculty of Law and Political Sciences

My name is Ferdous Rahman and I am from Bangladesh. I am pursuing doctoral studies at the Department of Private International Law at the Faculty of Law and Political Science under the Stipendium Hungaricum Programme. Currently I am in the first year of my four-year PhD programme. I came to know about SZTE while exploring for the Stipendium Hungaricum programme. Among the other available options, this was my first choice. Apart from its excellent ranking, I got my supervisor with similar research interest. The increasing number of international students gave me a comfort of having a cosmopolitan environment. After starting my studies here in September 2019, I am convinced that I could not expect more. For prospective students, I would advise that SZTE can be their next home as I got mine. Everyone here including the professors, the administrators, and the students are very friendly and helpful. They make studies a joyous journey instead of pile of classes and books. After my graduation, I will return to my home country. The knowledge and the experience that I have been receiving here will be a great resource for my academic career. I intend to continue my research further and expect to contribute to policy formulation at national and international level."


Ahmad Adha - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

I am Ahmad Adha from Indonesia and currently a 3rd year student in Theoretical Linguistics PhD program. I chose the University of Szeged (SZTE) as my study destination because it is located in the center of the town and it is also the highest ranked university in Hungary. The university staff and the professors were very accommodating and understanding when I decided to change the program that suits my research topic. I am so glad that I can be a part of my current department, and of course SZTE, since it is also the Center of Pragmatic Research which aims to promote advanced linguistic pragmatic research with international collaborations. After graduating, I wish to continue to work in my academic field as a professor and a researcher. My advice for prospective SZTE students is to choose a university with a good academic reputation that fits their passion.