The Nobel Prize in Medicine recognized on Monday the work of Hungarian researcher Katalin Kariko and her American colleague Drew Weissman in the development of messenger RNA vaccines, decisive in the fight against Covid-19.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded on Monday October 2 to a duo of researchers for their work on messenger RNA, but in their early days, these two scientists worked in the shadows for a long time. Hungarian biochemist Katalin Kariko and American doctor Drew Weissman were able to develop the decisive steps that led to the coronavirus vaccine three years ago. Before that, there were 30 years of research, patience and it took some persistence to obtain funding when they met at the University of Pennsylvania in the 90s, because at that time they were work on DNA, and not on RNA which is valued
Educate our immune system
DNA is our genes, RNA is an intermediate messenger, between our genes and the proteins we make. Basically, RNA carries protein recipes from our genome to cells. Upon her arrival in the United States in 1985, the Hungarian Katalin Kariko was convinced that it was possible to hijack the mechanism of messenger RNA to educate our immune system, and teach it to deal with viruses. Problem, initially, injections of messenger RNA trigger dangerous inflammatory reactions. But in 2005, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman published decisive works. They succeeded in making messenger RNA more acceptable to the body by very subtly modifying the structure of messenger RNA.
Later in 2015, they took a new step, facilitating the entry of RNA into cells.
The technology is becoming mature. The billions of dollars subsequently invested, at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular by the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna laboratories, then made it possible to transform the trial leading to the RNA vaccine. This messenger RNA technology is also promising well beyond vaccination against Covid.
Towards personalized medicine
The hope now is to develop messenger RNA vaccines against influenza, AIDS, dengue fever, herpes, and other infectious diseases. And since messenger RNA can also produce healing proteins, this technology also opens doors for treating certain pancreatic cancers or melanomas, for example. It could also be useful in the treatment of genetic diseases. Several dozen clinical trials are underway.
>> Messenger RNA, a fatal weapon against Covid-19, brings hope in the fight against cancer, AIDS and other infectious or degenerative diseases.
This technology will make it possible to move more quickly towards personalized medicine.