2021. October 17., Sunday
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Katalin Karikó and her colleague Drew Weissman Receive 2021 Lasker Award, America’s Top Biomedical Research Prize

Katalin Karikó and her colleague Drew Weissman receive the 2021 Lasker Award for their effort in laying the foundation for swift vaccine development against Covid-19. The Award often called "the American Nobel Prize" once again spotlights the exceptional achievements of Katalin Karikó - a graduate of the University of Szeged -, the importance of basic research and the positive impact of scientists' collaborations on our lives.

The mRNA-based vaccines provide protection for hundreds of millions of people worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic. Messenger RNA inventors Katalin Karikó, PhD - an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery at Penn and a senior vice president at BioNTech - and her fellow researcher Drew Weissman, MD, PhD - the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine - are honoured with what is widely regarded as America’s top biomedical research prize for the discovery of a therapeutic technology based on the modification of mRNA that makes it remarkably safe and effective. The Lasker foundation announced its decision on 24 September 2021.

 

Katalin Karikó, honorary doctor and Alumna of the University of Szeged, compares the research work to the thrill of watching an intricate detective story unfold. “So many enigmatic things about RNA I find very, very exciting,” Karikó said. “And I am so glad that it eventually helped humanity”. - Said Katalin Karikó. According to the Penn press release, she added that while working with Weissman on experiments, “Sometimes, we asked a question and made an experiment. And of course, instead of the answer, we got 100 more questions. It was very enjoyable. I would like to emphasize that to be a scientist is a joy.”".

 

The researcher, who holds a degree in biology from the Faculty of Science and Informatics of the University of Szeged and is a doctor of biochemistry, first heard about the potential of mRNA for medical applications at her alma mater. She persisted for her research in the US, even when she could not get funding. A chance encounter led her working with Drew Weissman in Penn's labs. Their groundbreaking study published in 2005 found that their concept—which brought fresh hope to a field beset by scepticism and false starts—could be a reality: that mRNA could be altered and then delivered effectively into the body to initiate a protective immune response.

 

Their method to turn cells into factories that can temporarily produce proteins that serve as therapeutic compounds or stimulate the body’s immune system to attack a specific pathogen also minimizes harmful inflammatory responses. This platform and the result of years of research set the stage for the rapid development and deployment of mRNA vaccines to combat COVID-19 when the virus exploded across the world in early 2020. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is being deployed in 126 countries, and 71 countries are using the Moderna vaccine.

 

For 75 years, the Lasker Awards have recognized the contributions of leaders who make major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of human disease. The Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award that Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman are about to receive rewards major advances that improve the lives of many thousands of people. The two researchers (often referred as mRNA innovators) receive a combined honorarium of $250,000 with the 2021 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

 

The Lasker Prize has already been awarded Honorary Doctors of the University of Szeged, such as Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi (1954), Andrew Schally (1975) and in 2021 Katalin Karikó. Since its inception, 95 Lasker laureates have also been awarded the Nobel Prize.

SZTE Experience

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Hamza Baniata – Faculty of Science and Informatics

I am Hamza Baniata, a first-year student at the Doctoral School of Computer Science, and I am From Jordan. SZTE is continuously supporting research and it has an internationally recognized, highly ranked group of professors. It also offers courses and research topics that are strongly related to my research field; Cloud Computing, Fog Computing and Internet of Things. All of this motivated me to apply to the University/Department of Software Engineering. Szeged is a calm city, full of love and peace. The University of Szeged is similar to the city, which provides the perfect environment for creation and development. Studying at the university requires a high level of effort, commitment and seriousness. Applying to the university and having these characteristics are my two pieces of advice to prospective students. It is very early to define my future now, but I am planning to apply to a research position in my field after graduation and if I had the opportunity, I would love to contribute my effort and knowledge in advancing such a wonderful and respected university.


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Nikki - Faculty of Health Sciences and Social Studies

My name is Nikki and I am from Iran. Currently I am a second year student studying Physiotherapy at the University of Szeged. I really like the Environment of Szeged as it is a true University City where you can meet people from around the world. I consider Szeged as my second home since I have established my own path here and I have a lot of friends who make me feel home. The reason why I came to Szeged is because I was informed by one of my friends about the fact that the University degrees are EU accredited and will help me to reach my goals and open doors for future job opportunities. Once I have obtained my degree, I would like to stay in Hungary and pursue a post graduate program. Later on I will seize the opportunity to gain some job experience in my field here in Hungary before I hold my ground in Europe.

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