Immunology & Inflammation (I&I) - Seminar Series
Messenger RNA was discovered in 1961 and it took 60 years until the first mRNA became FDA-approved product in the form of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. During those years a lot of progress has been made by hundreds of scientists. It was 1978 when the first time isolated mRNA delivered into mammalian cells produced the encoded protein. In vitro transcription introduced in 1984 made it possible to generate any desired mRNA from the encoding plasmid using phage RNA polymerases. In the early 90s mRNA was used for therapy as well as vaccine against infectious diseases and cancer. Inflammatory nature of the mRNA limited its in vivo use. Replacing uridine with pseudouridine made the mRNA non-immunogenic and highly translatable. Delivery of the lipid nanoparticle-formulated nucleoside-modified mRNA encoding viral antigens became a platform for effective vaccine. Labile nature of the mRNA is ideal for transient production of the viral antigen, to generate effective antibody and cellular immune response.
Robert-Rössle Straße 10
Axon 1 + 2
Katalin Karikó, PhD, is Senior Vice President at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals and Adjunct Professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She is best known for her contributions to mRNA technology and the COVID-19 vaccines.
For four decades, her research has been focusing on RNA-mediated mechanisms with the ultimate goal of developing in vitro-transcribed mRNA for protein therapy. Karikó and collaborator Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, discovered that changing the nucleoside uridine to pseudouridine makes the vitro-transcribed mRNA non-inflammatory, suitable for medical use. Together with their colleague, Norbert Pardi, PhD, they also realized that packaging such mRNA into lipid nanoparticles makes the ideal vaccine. This laboratory breakthrough made mRNA safe, effective, and practical for use as a vaccine against COVID-19.
Karikó received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Szeged, Hungary, in 1982. For her pioneering work, she was honored with several prizes such as the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology, and the Lasker Award.
Michela Di Virgilio & Klaus Rajewsky