The Presentation Ceremony of the Japan Prize 2020, 2021 and 2022 was held in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan in Tokyo on 13 April. Prof. Katalin Karikó, Research Professor at the University of Szeged (SZTE) and Drew Weissman, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, have been awarded the 2022 Japan International Prize for their pioneering research contributing to the development of mRNA vaccines. At the event Dr. Karikó met Mr. Hideya Ishikura, Executive Director of Hungarian Medical Universities Foundation (HMU), a longtime student recruitment partner of the University of Szeged.
The Japan Prize is awarded annually to scientists and engineers from around the world who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology, thereby furthering the cause of peace and prosperity of mankind. Each year two fields of scientific endeavor are honored. The Japan Prize laureates receive a certificate of merit and a prize medal.
According to Emperor Naruhito’s laudation, Karikó and Weissman received the Prize for their pioneering research contributing to the development of mRNA vaccines. The two scientists have discovered that by replacing uridine with a modified form of uridine in the mRNA molecule, they can suppress the unwanted innate immune response in the body. Their continuous research into mRNA protein production has laid the foundation for the development of mRNA vaccines.
The University of Szeged is honored that its alumna and research professor, Dr. Katalin Karikó has been awarded the Japan Prize! This is Dr. Karikó’s second prize in Japan – she also received the Keio Medical Science Prize. The University of Szeged has long put intense focus on recruiting Japanese students with strong educational background for its internationally recognized programmes. Hungarian Medical Universities Foundation (HMU) has been the University’s longtime, exclusive partner in these efforts. As a result, there are currently 114 students of Japanese nationality pursuing their studies at the institution, the majority of them in Health Sciences. Thus, Executive Director Mr. Hideya Ishikura’s meeting with Dr. Karikó is of symbolic meaning, representing the collaboration between HMU and the University of Szeged. Dr. Norbert Palanovics, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to Japan - who also plays an important role in the promotion of Hungarian higher education in the country - was also present at the Ceremony.
In the picture from left to right, Dr. Norbert Palanovics, Dr. Katalin Karikó, Mr. Hideya Ishikura
Summing up her career Katalin Karikó said that „my journey from the humble beginning demonstrates that it doesn’t matter how far you start, you can achieve so much if you put your mind into it and don’t give up.” She praised the Japan prize for putting a spotlight on scientific research, technological advancement and international collaboration – all of these having been so crucial for the development of mRNA. She also expressed the hope that this recognition would inspire the future generation to become scientists. Following the Japan Prize award ceremony and the associated scientific lectures, Katalin Karikó concluded her program in Tokyo with various meetings and discussions at Keio University.