The essence of the mRNA vaccines is in introducing synthetic genetic material to the body, causing the immune system to start producing proteins that are similar to the virus. These proteins then stimulate the immune system to build a robust defence against the virus. Different to the classic vaccines, weakened or dead virus material isn’t required. Using the mRNA techniques, we were able to produce vaccines for the relatively unknown coronavirus quickly and at a large scale, something that had never been done before at such a speed and such a scale.
Years of research
Karikó spent years researching medical applications of mRNA, first in Hungary and later in the United States, not without some setbacks and rejections. But ultimately she was able to demonstrate, together with Drew Weissman, that it is possible to use mRNA to achieve immune activation in the body, without the body turning against the mRNA itself. With this breakthrough, a new revolutionary technique was born.
Motivation Nobel Committee
The Nobel Committee praised the researchers for their groundbreaking discoveries, which contributed to the extraordinary speed at which vaccines were developed during one of the most urgent health crises in modern history. This recognition underlines the immense importance of their work and its impact on global public health.
Response from Floris Rutjes
Honorary promoter and director of the Institute for the Institute for Molecules and Materials Floris Rutjes aresponds: “The Nobel committee has definitely made the right choice, because you cannot imagine a scientific invention that has had more impact in the previous years. What is also great is that this invention came about from very fundamental research based on the vision that it should be possible to use mRNA for therapeutic purposes. It is then thanks to Karikó's perseverance that these very fundamental ideas ultimately led to actual applications.”
The full impact of the mRNA technology is actually only in the starting blocks; “It has given a huge boost to other possible therapeutic mRNA applications, so I also expect that we can see more mRNA-based medicines in the near future,” said Rutjes.