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Nobel Prize winner awarded Nierenberg Prize at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Dr. Katalin Karikó was awarded 2023 Nobel Prize for her work on COVID-10 mRNA vaccines.
Posted at 8:11 AM, Mar 26, 2024

LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) – A packed auditorium hall at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla saw Dr. Katalin Karikó receive the prestigious Nierenberg Prize on Monday night.

Karikó is a biochemist and researcher whose work, alongside her collaborator, helped bring the world out of the coronavirus pandemic with the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

Their work invented the technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to stave off COVID infections.

“I always think about all of the people who worked on the vaccine. Thinking about all of the people who contributed to it, volunteers who went for the vaccine trial and the health care workers who worked during the pandemic. So they are the real heroes in my eye,” Karikó said.

It caught the eye of the scientific community, not just in La Jolla, and they were awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

“What they get for the Nobel Prize [in] physiology is just unbelievable. And to think that, 'Oh, my name is on the end; me too!' It was just something that’s difficult register,” Karikó said.

But it was a long journey for Karikó and decades of researching mRNA.

“Dr. Kariko saw the game-changing potential for messenger RNA in the late 1980s, but the rest of the scientific and biotech did not,” a presenter said at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Monday night.

“And when I was terminated then I was looking at what I can do, where I can go and other place,” Karikó

It eventually be awarded arguably one the most recognizable prizes on the planet.

“That’s why I try to emphasize to the people that other people make the decision; this is not yours. You have to go and don’t start to feel sorry for yourself,” Karikó said.

A message of perseverance while being a role model for others.

“It is important for other women to recognize that okay they can do it,” Karikó

While her check list of prizes and awards now includes the Nierenberg Prize to go along with her Nobel Prize, her work is not over.

“To be a scientist is something a blessing and a curse because you just cannot stop thinking. And you think oh I can help some people with some disease because I have the understanding and I have to do something,” Karikó said. “I have to focus on helping those people who are suffering certain disease and that’s what I am working on.”