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Katalin Karikó, who is sharing the Nobel Prize in medicine for her work with mRNA vaccines, says she was previously demoted by the University of Pennsylvania for her research in that area.
“If you know about 10 years ago, I was here in October because I was kicked out from UPenn, was forced to retire,” Karikó told the Nobel Prize organization in an interview Monday.
Karikó and Drew Weissman both won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work on mRNA vaccines, which have been used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the work in the area has not been an easy road for Karikó, who had to fight her whole career to study mRNA vaccines.
In 1995, UPenn even demoted her because she could not get the financial support to continue her research.
The university is still celebrating her win Monday, with no mention of the demotion or her rocky history with the university.
“The University of Pennsylvania messenger RNA pioneers whose years of scientific partnership unlocked an understanding of how to modify mRNA to make it an effective therapeutic—enabling a platform used to rapidly develop lifesaving vaccines amid the global COVID-19 pandemic—have been named winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,” UPenn said in a statement.
Karikó left the university in 2013 to pursue an opportunity as the vice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals, before later returning.
“Day after day, Dr. Weissman, Dr. Karikó and their teams worked tirelessly to unlock the power of mRNA as a therapeutic platform, not knowing the way in which their work could serve to meet a big challenge the world would one day face,” UPenn President Liz Magill said. “With the truest devotion to their field, they’ve already promised they will not stop here, and that is the greatest inspiration of all. Our Penn community is enormously proud of their groundbreaking achievements and this well-deserved recognition.”
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