Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met in his Budapest office with Hungarian-born biochemist Katalin Karikó and credited her for a good chunk of the work that led to the development of the current modern batch of messenger RNA (mRNA) coronavirus vaccines, Orbán announced on his Facebook page.
“From Kisújszállás to world fame. We couldn’t have done it without her in Hungary. Thank you, Katalin Karikó!” Orbán wrote.
The 66-year-old Karikó, from the small town of Kisújszállás in southern Hungary, who was fired from the Szeged Biological Research Center in southern Hungary in 1985, left for the United States where she became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. In 2012, Karikó and Drew Weissman, an immunologist at the same university, received a patent for the use of several modified nucleosides to reduce the antiviral immune response to mRNA.
In early 2013, when she realized she wouldn’t get the chance to apply her experience with mRNA at the University of Pennsylvania, Karikó accepted a position as senior cice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals.
The British ethologist Richard Dawkins, as well as the Canadian stem cell biologist Derrick Rossi, who helped found rival biotechnology firm Moderna, have called for Karikó and Weissman to receive a Nobel Prize.
Title image: BioNTech vice-president Katalin Karikó (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (R) meet in Budapest on May 13. (Prime Minister’s Press Office)