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Nobel Prize in Medicine 2023, mRNA Vaccines, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman

Nobel Prize in Medicine 2023

  • Context (TH | IE): The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó and American physician-scientist Drew Weissman. Their work enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

Medicine Nobel 2023 goes to duo who paved the way for mRNA COVID vaccines

What are mRNA Vaccines, and Why were They crucial During COVID-19?

  • Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system against specific infectious diseases.
  • Traditionally, vaccines used weakened or inactivated viruses to stimulate antibody production.
    • As technology advanced, vaccines began using partial viral genetic code instead of the whole virus.
  • But large-scale development of these vaccines requires cell culture (growing cells under controlled conditions), which is time-consuming.
  • During the COVID-19, this time-consuming way of producing vaccines proved ineffective. This is where mRNA technology proved crucial.
  • This technology existed since the 1980s but wasn’t perfected for large-scale vaccine production.
  • Basically, mRNA vaccines use genetically engineered mRNA to instruct cells to make the protein needed to fight a particular virus.
  • Antibodies or immunoglobulins are proteins the immune system produces in response to foreign substances, such as viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens.
  • When antibodies bind to antigens (molecules on the surface of pathogens), they can neutralise the pathogen directly or mark it for destruction by other immune cells.
  • mRNA, short for messenger RNA, is a molecule that carries instructions from DNA to the cell’s cytoplasm to produce proteins.

What Kariko and Weissman did to Make the mRNA Technology Viable for Vaccines?

Nobel Prize

  • The Nobel Prize is a set of five international prizes awarded annually in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace.
  • It was established by the will of Alfred Nobel (the inventor of dynamite).
  • The prizes are awarded by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • They are awarded to individuals who have made the most significant contributions to humanity in their respective fields during the preceding year.
  • The Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901.
  • They are awarded each year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.
  • Except for the Peace Prize, the Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • The Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

COVID-19 Vaccines

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