CUHK awards honorary doctorate of science to mRNA vaccine pioneer Professor Katalin Karikó
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, to Professor Katalin Karikó at an honorary degree conferment ceremony on 4 August, in recognition of her significant scientific discoveries and life-saving achievements. After the ceremony, Professor Karikó delivered a distinguished lecture on “Developing mRNA for therapy” and talked about her research journey.
Professor Karikó is currently a Professor at the University of Szeged, Hungary, and an Adjunct Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She is a Hungarian-American biochemist who specializes in Ribonucleic acid (RNA)-mediated mechanisms, and is best known for her contributions to Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology and COVID-19 vaccines. She collaborated with Professor Drew Weissman in the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, finding a way to modify mRNA and developing a delivery technique to package the mRNA in lipid nanoparticles. This made it possible for mRNA to reach the desired part of the body and trigger an immune response to fight disease. Their invented modified mRNA technology was used in Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines to prevent COVID-19 infection. These laboratory breakthroughs made mRNA safe, effective and practical for use as a vaccine against COVID. The mRNA-based technology developed by Professor Karikó and the vaccines based on it created the foundations for the effective, successful fight against the COVID-19 virus worldwide, making a major contribution to the containment of the pandemic.
Professor Karikó has received many prestigious international awards and honours for her pioneering, globally significant work in biochemistry, including the Tang Prize, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, the Japan Prize, the Prince Mahidol Award, the German Future Prize, the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research Award, and honorary degrees from many universities. CUHK awarded Professor Karikó an honorary doctorate of science for her outstanding contribution to biomedical research.