Senior Vice President (Pioneer of mRNA Vaccine Technology )
BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals
Katalin Karikó graduated from University of Szeged, Hungary in 1978, and received a doctoral degree in biochemistry from the same university in 1982. She continued her research at the Biological Research Centre in Szeged, at the Temple University in Philadelphia and at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania where she worked for 24 years. From 2013, Karikó is a senior vice president at BioNTech located in Mainz, Germany, where she is leading the mRNA-based protein replacement programs.
For four decades, her research has been focusing on RNA-mediated mechanisms with the ultimate goal of developing in vitro-transcribed mRNA to treat acquired and genetic diseases. She was perfecting the therapeutic mRNA for years, and in 1997, joined forces with Drew Weissman and together they made mRNA suitable for medical use by replacing the uridine with pseudouridine, thus making the mRNA non-inflammatory. They - together with their team - further demonstrated that such modified mRNA
formulated with LNP can be a potent vaccine. This technology ultimately became the basis for the FDA approved COVID-19 mRNA vaccine that is used to combat the current global pandemic. Their pioneering work fueled a number of advances and has opened the door for future therapeutics.
Karikó has received prestigious awards, including the Széchenyi Prize, Rosenstiel Award, Reichstein Medal and Horwitz Prize.