Katalin Karikó of the University of Pennsylvania Will Share the 2021 Albany Prize for Her Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine

Katalin Karikó, an adjunct professor of neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine t the University of Pennsylvania and a senior vice president at BioNTech, has been selected to receive the 2021 Albany Prize, She will share the award with Drew Weissman, the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research at the medical school and Barney Graham, the deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center and the chief of the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health.

Since The Albany Prize’s inception in 2001, the annual award of $500,000 has been granted to those who have altered and positively impacted the course of medical research. In 2020, the program paused due to the pandemic, and this year the recipients of The Albany Prize will receive $1 million, double its typical amount. One of the most significant prizes in medicine and science in the United States, The Albany Prize will be awarded on Wednesday, September 22, during a celebration in Albany, New York.

The honor comes after decades of work by Weissman and Karikó, whose scientific findings helped make mRNA vaccines — including the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that recently received full FDA approval. In 2005, they published research that found how mRNA could be altered in order to use it as a therapeutic.

“Collectively, The Albany Prize recipients have made major contributions to science over decades as researchers, mentors, and educators,” says Vincent P. Verdile, the Lynne and Mark Groban, MD ’67, Distinguished Dean of Albany Medical College and chair of The Albany Prize National Selection Committee. “Their years of work, scientific expertise, and sheer determination played a critical role in accelerating the development of two mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. And their dedication exemplifies The Albany Prize legacy to honor scientists whose work has demonstrated significant outcomes for the betterment of humankind.”

A native of Hungary, Dr. Karikó earned a Ph.D. at the University of Szeged. She continued her research and postdoctoral studies at the Institute of Biochemistry, Biological Research Centre of Hungary, the department of biochemistry at Temple University in Philadelphia, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

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