Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology Hungarian Katalin Karikó and American Drew Weissman were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology on Monday. They were awarded the prize for their work with the covid-19 vaccine. Their discovery made it possible to develop effective mRNA vaccines against the coronavirus. They have previously received awards for their work.

An international leader in RNA biology, Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, will address the graduates of Drexel’s College of Medicine during its commencement ceremony on May 18.

Research by Weissman and researcher Katalin Karikó, PhD, laid the groundwork for the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Using the approaches developed by Weissman and Karikó enabled the development and authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines within nine months; and both vaccines have shown efficacy rates around 95%. Thus far, over 250 million doses of one of these mRNA- based COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States.

As health and safety regulations allow, Drexel University’s College of Medicine will celebrate this year’s graduating class at The Mann Center for Performing Arts. The event will also be livestreamed at the College’s YouTube channel.

“As we celebrate our students and the mark they have made at Drexel, we know they are equipped with the skills to solve tomorrow’s health care challenges,” said Charles B. Cairns, MD, FACEP, FAHA, the Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean and senior vice president of medical affairs at Drexel University College of Medicine. “Proven in their studies, clinical activities and service to our community — even during a pandemic — our graduates ensure the future of medicine is more innovative and compassionate than ever. There is no better way for them to begin that journey than by hearing from an internationally renowned researcher whose advances in mRNA technology are integral to solving the greatest health challenge of our time.” 

Weissman’s current research focuses on RNA and innate immune system biology and the application of these findings to vaccine research, therapeutics and gene therapy. His lab is developing many vaccines for pathogens, including malaria, norovirus, influenza, C. difficile, HSV2, HIV, HCV, as well as vaccines for potential future pandemics, universal influenza and pancoronavirus. His lab also develops mRNA delivery of proteins, including genetically deficient, therapeutic, and monoclonal antibodies. 

Most recently, Weissman’s lab has developed new technologies to deliver mRNA-LNPs to specific cell types with simple injection. The cells and organs targeted thus far include lung, heart, brain, CD4+ cells, T cells and bone marrow stem cells. New therapies are being developed to treat genetic and other disorders, which has the potential to change and simplify such therapies and allow worldwide use for diseases, such as sickle cell anemia. 

Weissman graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brandeis University and a medical degree and doctorate from the Boston University School of Medicine. Weissman completed a residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston and a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. He is widely published and is a member of the American Federation for Clinical Research, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Association of Immunologists.  

More information about the College of Medicine’s commencement is available at https://drexel.edu/medicine/news-events/commencement/.

Photo: Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at Drexel University

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