This Monday, the Nobel committee rewarded the 2 researchers who, due to their work, have already saved tens of millions of lives by growing a kind of vaccine primarily based on Messenger RNA. We owe them to the Hungarian Katalina Kariko and the American Drew Weissman. Analysis that doesn’t date from the Covid-19 pandemic, however from the 90s.
Katalin Kariko’s story just isn’t all success. For a few years, she labored within the shadows, alone in her nook. Originally, your complete scientific neighborhood was primarily inquisitive about DNA, however the biochemist, latest winner of the Nobel Prize in Drugs, is satisfied of the revolution that RNA (for Ribo-Nucleic Acid) may carry to Drugs.
A gathering on the photocopier that adjustments historical past
RNA works this fashion: we inject a molecule into our cells which transmits a message to our physique, that of creating antibodies in opposition to a specific virus for instance. The researcher then utilized for a number of grants to advance her work. Requests which had been all rejected by the College of Pennsylvania the place Katalin Kariko was going to take up the professorship. “They demoted me, anticipating me to depart,” she confided.
Decided, the scientist continued her analysis, alone, till a sure assembly, on the college photocopier in 1998, which might advance the historical past of science. She meets Drew Weissman. The latter explains to him that he’s engaged on a vaccine in opposition to AIDS, primarily based on DNA. A venture that doesn’t come to fruition. Katalin Kariko recommends that he transfer in the direction of RNA.
Collectively and in round fifteen years, they succeeded in producing RNA accepted by the immune system. At the moment, RNA is used for vaccines to combat Covid-19, but in addition as a lead for remedies in opposition to lung and pancreatic cancers.