Katalin Karikó (1955–)
is a catalyzer.
Dr. Katalin Karikó is a Hungarian biochemist who specializes in RNA-mediated mechanisms. Her research has lead to the development of in vitro-transcribed mRNA for protein therapies and the technology behind the COVID-19 vaccine. She co-founded and was CEO of RNARx from 2006 to 2013 when she took on the role of Vice President of BioNTech.
“I always enjoyed working… I imagined all of the diseases I could treat.” –Katalin Karikó
Karikó’s work includes scientific research of RNA-mediated immune activation. Together with American immunologist Drew Weissman, she co-discovered the nucleoside modifications that suppress the immunogenicity of RNA leading to the therapeutic use of mRNA. Their research revealed that the antiviral response from mRNA gave their cancer vaccines an extra boost in defense against tumors. Karikó and Weissman hold U.S. patents for the application of non-immunogenic, nucleoside-modified RNA.
Over the course of her career, Karikó was terminated and demoted on multiple occasions because her mRNA research failed to attract interest or funding. But in 2020, this technology was licensed by BioNTech and Moderna to develop their COVID-19 vaccines. “Redemption!” is what Karikó yelled when she learned that the vaccine was 90% effective after risking her career for this research. She explained, “I was grabbing the air, I got so excited I was afraid that I might die or something.” The British ethologist Richard Dawkins, as well as the Canadian stem cell biologist Derrick Rossi, who helped found Moderna, have called for these two to receive a Nobel Prize.
Today, Karikó is the SVP of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
At Soluna, we are celebrating badass women catalyzers in our data centers. We are inspired by their pioneering efforts, as we work to catalyze a clean energy future.