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How Drew Weissman was informed about his Nobel win: ‘They didn’t have my number'

Oct 02, 2023 06:09 PM IST

Nobel Medicine Prize 2023: Drew Weissman, 64, is a professor and director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations.

American Drew Weissman and Hungarian-American Katalin Karikó won the Nobel Prize in medicine on for discoveries that enabled the creation of mRNA vaccines against Covid-19. The panel said that the scientists were awarded for contributing “to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times."

Nobel Medicine Prize 2023: US physician-scientist Drew Weissman along with his long time collaborator Katalin Kariko of Hungary won the 2023 Nobel Medicine Prize.(AFP)
Nobel Medicine Prize 2023: US physician-scientist Drew Weissman along with his long time collaborator Katalin Kariko of Hungary won the 2023 Nobel Medicine Prize.(AFP)

Their “groundbreaking findings ... fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system," the panel said.

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Drew Weissman, 64, a professor and director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations, met Katalin Karikó, 68, a senior vice president at BioNTech, by chance in the 1990s while photocopying research papers, according to Penn Today, the university's news website.

On winning the prize Drew Weissman said he found it hard to believe he had won the prestigious award.

Read more: Explained: What are mRNA vaccines that earned two scientists Nobel in Medicine

"I heard it from Katie first because they called her first and didn't have my number," he said, adding, “We weren't sure if somebody was playing a prank on us.”

"I am not a big celebrator but would probably go out with his family for a “nice dinner”, he said.

While Katalin Karikó said that her husband was the first to pick up the early morning call, handing it to her to hear the news. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was very much surprised. But I am very happy.”

Before Covid-19, mRNA vaccines were already being tested for other diseases like Zika, influenza and rabies but the pandemic brought more attention to this approach, she said, explaining, “There was already clinical trials before COVID, but people were not aware."

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