Scientists Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, from Hungary and the United States respectively, have received the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries enabling the development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

“The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19,” the body said. “The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times.”

Dr Karikó was senior vice-president and head of RNA protein replacement at BioNTech until 2022, and has since acted as an adviser to the company. She is also a professor at the University of Szeged in Hungary, and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Dr Weissman is professor in vaccine research at the Perelman School.

Dr Karikó invented a way to prevent the immune system from launching an inflammatory reaction against lab-made mRNA, previously seen as a major hurdle against any therapeutic use of mRNA. Together with Dr Weissman, she showed in 2005 that adjustments to nucleosides  can keep the mRNA under the immune system’s radar.

The Journal ‘Nature’ reported the following:

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to biochemist Katalin Karikó and immunologist Drew Weissman for discoveries that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The vaccines have been administered more than 13 billion times, saved millions of lives and prevented severe COVID-19 in millions of people, said the Nobel committee…

Karikó is the 13th female scientist to win a Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology. She was born in Hungary and later moved to the United States in the 1980s. “Hopefully, this prize will inspire women and immigrants and all of the young ones to persevere and be resilient. That’s what I hope,” she says.

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and the Pfizer–BioNTech collaboration deliver mRNA that instructs cells to create SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, which, in turn, stimulates the body to make antibodies.

“The ideas that she and Drew Weismann developed were critical for the success of RNA vaccines,” said John Tregoning, a vaccine immunologist at Imperial College London, in a press statement for the UK Science Media Centre. “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 discovery has opened a new chapter for medicine,” said Nobel committee member Qiang Pan-Hammarström, an immunologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, at a press conference following the prize announcement. “Investment in long-term basic research is very important.”

“It’s really like a revolution starting since the COVID pandemic,” says Rein Verbeke, an mRNA vaccine researcher at the University of Ghent in Belgium. He adds that Karikó and Weissman’s contributions were essential to the vaccines’ success during the pandemic, and beyond. “Their part was really crucial to the development of this platform.” …

The development of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics is in its infancy, says Robin Shattock, who studies vaccines, infections and immunity at Imperial College London. Scientists and biotechnology companies are busy coming up with new applications for mRNA technology, from cancer treatments to next-generation COVID-19 vaccines. Many teams are also working on improved ways of delivering mRNA. “What we see used today is not what it’s going to be used in the future,” says Shattock. “We’re at the beginning of an RNA revolution. The technology is really taking off.”


On this blog, we had an abundance of discussions about mRNA vaccines. I wonder whether the anti-vaxx brigade will now consider their position. More likely, however, they will merely claim that the Nobel committe is just another element in the big conspiracy that is about to kill us all.

17 Responses to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman Receive the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

  • QUOTE BBC News 2023-10-02

    Asked about how the pair first reacted to hearing the news that they had won the prize, Professor Kaliko said she thought it was “just a joke” initially.

    In a similar vein, Professor Weissman said: “I was you know, sort of overjoyed and then disbelief, and a little bit suspecting that there was some anti-vaxxer playing a prank on us.”

  • Sadly I fear they may end up spending much of their prize money on extra security. For the anti-vaxxers every piece of evidence against them is further proof of the depth of the conspiracy.

  • They will regret being the “heroes” that “saved” lives, Look what happened to Australians, after vaccination:

    • Oh dear Bob.

      Your data, as ever, says exactly the opposite of what you want it to say.

      What happened in Australia? Savage lockdowns and border controls. Public cynicism resulted and vaccination rates were low.

      The vaccine rollout also suffered under a mix of “it’s just the flu” or “no rush, we can keep the virus out” attitudes that prevailed.

      As a result, the eastern states were undervaccinated when the delta wave hit in winter 2021,3 and Australia’s covid-19 deaths doubled from 34 per million people to 70 per million in the space of a few months.


      One day you might learn to read and understand beyond your current pigheaded antivax level of understanding.

      • 97.8% of the Australian population disagree with you (they had the first dose):

        (96.1% had the second dose)

        • @Old Bob
          I don’t know what antivaxx stupidity you’re trying to peddle here, but I’m pretty sure that COVID vaccines protected Australians just as well as people in other countries, with just as few side effects.

          Or is this another variant of your pilot-killing COVID vaccines, now with Australians instead of airline pilots? So what’s next? COVID vaccines exclusively killing Buddhist monks? COVID vaccines exclusively killing lacrosse players? COVID vaccines exclusively killing high American school cheerleaders with Republican parents?

          • @Richard Rasker

            Let us not forget the plot where COVID vaccines caused a basketball player’s kid to have cardiac arrest:

            But the real headline that we have seen again and again during the past several years is something like : “Dumb right-wing antivaxxer killed by COVID after rejecting vaccines”.

          • @Talker

            “Dumb right-wing antivaxxer killed by COVID after rejecting vaccines”.

            These people who shunned vaccination were not necessarily stupid; they simply listened to the wrong people – i.e. the ‘real’ antivaxxers one tier above these ordinary, misguided citizens, often with academic credentials, who not only keep spreading their nefarious nonsense, but tirelessly look for and make up new reasons why vaccines are supposedly bad.
            Their misinformation and lies may have caused as many as 300,000 deaths in the US alone.

            So I think it is fair to say that anyone who actively spreads antivaccine misinformation is at least in part responsible for the death of other people. And yes, that includes some of the resident trolls here.

            And as could be expected, this latest Nobel Prize was not received well by antivaxxers, some of whom even went as far as trying to associate the Nobel Prize in general with the Holocaust – because in their eyes, vaccines are Pure Evil, so any Nobel Prize for vaccine development means that the Nobel Prize is now Pure Evil as well …

          • for once, I’m happy to take your advice

          • “Don’t watch this…”

            Indeed !

            Children’s Health Defense is an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit activist group mainly known for anti-vaccine disinformation and has been identified as one of the main sources of misinformation on vaccines. Founded under the name World Mercury Project in 2011, it is chaired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The group has been campaigning against various public health programs, such as vaccination and fluoridation of drinking water. The group has been contributing to vaccine hesitancy in the United States, encouraging citizens and legislators to support anti-vaccine regulations and legislation.

            Children’s Health Defense alleges that a large proportion of American children have conditions as diverse as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, food allergies, cancer, and autoimmune diseases due to exposure to a variety of chemicals and radiation. The chemicals and radiation that Children’s Health Defense has blamed and campaigned against include vaccines, pesticides, fluoridation of drinking water, paracetamol (acetaminophen), aluminum, wireless communications, and others. It has brought lawsuits targeting pesticides in food and agriculture.

            Named the World Mercury Project until 2018, the Children’s Health Defense is an influential anti-vaccine organization due to the prominence of its chairman, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. From almost nothing, the group’s annual revenues jumped to almost half a million dollars when Kennedy got involved in 2015, then 1 million in 2018. With the group becoming a major disinformation hub during the COVID-19 pandemic, its revenue reached $6.8 million in 2020, then $15 million in 2021, counting among its new donors LimeWire’s founder Mark Gorton. The organization receives a portion of the sales of Ty Bollinger’s anti-vaccination video series, which it promotes…

            The 2021 tax return for Children’s Health Defense indicates that Kennedy was paid above $500,000 for his services as chairman and chief counsel for the organization.


          • good to know that you can’t do humour either!

        • Oh dear Bob.

          I’m not going to tell you why the link you posted demonstrates the asinine stupidity of your original comment. See if you can work it out for yourself.

      • @Lenny

        One day you might learn to read and understand beyond your current pigheaded antivax level of understanding.

        Sorry, but I find this needlessly insulting.

        Pigs are quite intelligent animals, and I’ve known some splendid pigs. As a matter of fact, I often stop by a little mud pool on my daily bike rides in the countryside, where a couple of pigs are just being themselves, happy as a pig in muck.

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