Nobel for mRNA COVID Vaccines prize

Nobel for mRNA COVID Vaccines prize


The 2023 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for developing the mRNA vaccine technology.

Background of mRNA Technology

  • Karikó and Drew Weissman initiated their research on mRNA technology in the late 1990s at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Patents were licensed through a series of sublicensing agreements, ultimately leading to Moderna and BioNTech’s involvement.

mRNA Vaccine

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a type of single-stranded RNA involved in protein synthesis. mRNA is made from a DNA template during the process of transcription.
  • mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece of mRNA that corresponds to a viral protein, usually a small piece of a protein found on the virus’s outer membrane.
  • By using this mRNA, cells can produce the viral protein. As part of a normal immune response, the immune system recognizes that the protein is foreign and produces specialized proteins called antibodies.
  • Antibodies help protect the body against infection by recognizing individual viruses or other pathogens, attaching to them, and marking the pathogens for destruction.

Challenges and Controversies in Drug Development and Vaccine Distribution

  • Public Funding in Drug Development: Much of the foundational knowledge behind new drugs and vaccines is discovered with government and public funds. This phase involves identifying potential biomolecular targets and suitable chemical candidates, costing billions of dollars and taking several decades.
  • Profit-Driven Drug Development Model: Companies often commercialize these discoveries, reaping significant profits, which can sometimes seem at odds with the public funding that supported the initial research. This model fosters innovation but can also lead to price disparities and profit-seeking attitudes among pharmaceutical companies.

Contrasting Approaches to Global Vaccination


  • It aimed to provide mRNA vaccines to poorer countries to address their purchasing power limitations.
  • Challenges: COVAX faced challenges in meeting its targets due to overestimated manufacturing capacity in India and concerns over vaccine quality in Russia and China.

Wastage: Several African countries had to discard vaccine doses due to proximity to expiry dates, highlighting logistical issues


A protein sub-unit vaccine developed by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and licensed to India’s Biological E for manufacturing.

No Patent: Unlike mRNA vaccines, Corbevax was not patented, emphasizing a commitment to global vaccine access.


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