Nobody knows who invented that pill that saves their lives

Together with other scientists, he has created two technologies that together have promoted messenger RNA therapies, which allowed the rapid development of vaccines such as those of Pfizer and Moderna. A milestone that made Katalín Karikó receive the Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific Research in 2021 and this same year she won the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology and Biomedicine together with Drew Weissman and Robert Langer for their discovery. Although their research has served to save millions of lives, she is not a heroine, nor does she claim to be, “the doctors, the people who worked in hospitals, from cleaners to nurses, who put their lives at risk for so long in the face of an infectious disease for which there was no vaccine or anything”. Born in Hungary 67 years ago, she discovered together with Weissman how to modify messenger RNA molecules to use them as a therapeutic agent and Langer devised the encapsulation techniques with nanoparticles that allow it to be introduced into the body. life gives for a book; in fact, she says that in Japan there are already two. In 1985 she emigrated to the United States with her husband, her two-year-old daughter and $1,000 hidden in a teddy bear (in communist times in Hungary you couldn’t get more than $100). The professor at the University of Philadelphia and vice president of BioNTEch, who Together with Pfizer, he developed one of the vaccines to combat the coronavirus, he spent decades working on the messenger RNA technique, but nobody believed in it and for years he did not have funding, although he did not give up his efforts. He speaks passionately about his work and Curiosity is always present in his life, perhaps for this reason, while taking photos of him, he points to the stained glass windows to highlight their beauty or bends down to touch and see closely the metal applications of the stairs. Now that there are billions of people vaccinated against COVID around the world, can we say that we are out of this? If we only had the original variant from Wuhan (where it originated in China) we would be totally protected, but we will have to generate new vaccines for the different variants if we cannot protect with the original, although it seems that the booster doses with the original vaccine are protecting us. But with the messenger RNA technique it is easy to make new vaccines if necessary. We are not going to return to the situation of 2020. Now, if someone gets infected, their throat just hurts, they do not die like two years ago, although the unvaccinated may be at risk. Will we have to get a new injection every year? we still know. Experts point out that you probably have to be revaccinated every season like with the flu. You have said that the messenger RNA technique is a biomedical revolution in the making, why is it being investigated now? Vaccine applications are being extended to viruses for which there are none, such as HIV, cytomegalovirus and respiratory viruses. We are also going to try vaccines for tuberculosis and malaria, and this year a clinical trial will be carried out to find one against herpes. There are other therapeutic uses, for example BioNTech is studying one for cancer. Before the vaccine to combat the coronavirus, it was already being used for heart failure and others are investigating gene therapies for amyloidosis. With all the difficulties you have had to overcome, what do words like failure or resignation mean to you? United makes you have to go through a lot of difficulties and you don’t give up, you don’t give up easily because you’ve already given up a lot to be able to establish yourself there. You have to believe in yourself, because when we left we had $1,000 and a one-way ticket, you’re in up to your neck and you have to do everything you can to get ahead, you are not a person who gives up easily.Despite the difficulties, I had a very happy life in the laboratory, I loved to experiment and find out things. It’s a lot of fun. Is it true that sometimes I spent so much time on it that I slept under the desk in my office? I did it several times at a time when my family was in Philly and I was working out. I was in the library until nine at night and then in the lab. For nine months I slept at a friend’s house or also in the office. Then in Philadelphia with my family, some New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Eve, suddenly something occurred to me and I had to go to the laboratory, I couldn’t cook when I had the idea in his head that he was going to achieve something. He was always thinking of new ideas asking me questions, one after the other, and that makes you very excited. What is science to you? It is everything. I like to read publications from the 1960s, in which there was less data than now, but much more reflection. I wish I could hug the people who wrote their articles so passionately, even though most of them are already dead. Few people know the scientists who have made vaccines possible or others who also save lives with their work. Yes, that will have to be changed. People take a pill in the morning that will save their lives and they don’t wonder who invented it, but then there are the Kardashians whom everyone knows and you wonder, what have they done and they haven’t done anything. People They don’t ask who has discovered something, but neither you, the journalists, nor we the scientists have communicated it, but we should do something about it.