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BIOCHEMIST KATALIN KARIKÓ AND PHYSICIST FERENC KRAUSZ RECEIVED THE NOBEL PRIZE IN STOCKHOLM

The most prestigious international award in the world of science was presented to the two Hungarian scientists by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Nobel award ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on 10 December 2023.

BIOCHEMIST KATALIN KARIKÓ AND PHYSICIST FERENC KRAUSZ RECEIVED THE NOBEL PRIZE IN STOCKHOLM

 

On behalf of the Nobel Foundation, Chair of the Board Astrid Söderbergh Widding welcomed the laureates. In her speech, she stressed that the message of Alfred Nobel is clear. He believed in the unique powers of science, literature and actions for peace to help transform the world to the benefit of humankind. And for all of this, international collaboration and respect for knowledge are key, she added.

She emphasized that at a time when crises challenge our understanding of our mission in academia, culture and civil society, we need, more than ever, to keep Nobel’s vision in mind.

The development of our world is not decided by destiny. It lies in our own power to decide on our future, and on how to transmit our heritage to new generations,” she said.

Physicist Ferenc Krausz has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, shared with two French scientists, Pierre Agostini and Anne L'Huillier, for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in atoms.

Physicist Ferenc Krausz accepts the Nobel Prize in Physics from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the 2023 Nobel Prize Ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on 10 December 2023 Photo by MTI, the Hungarian News Agency/ Szilárd Koszticsák 

 

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics is focused on small time scales, on attoseconds,” said Eva Olsson, Professor at Chalmers University of Technology, in her eulogy of the Nobel Prize in Physics laureates. In her speech, she explained that although the world is vast, the big is controlled by the smallest details that are beyond the capabilities of our five traditional senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. These small details have a great impact on our lives and offer intriguing possibilities for expanding our knowledge.

Hungarian-born Katalin Karikó and the American Drew Weissman have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries that paved the way for the development of mRNA-based vaccines.

Biochemist Katalin Karikó receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the 2023 Nobel Prize Ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on 10 December 2023. Photo by Hungarian News Agency MTI / Szilárd Koszticsák 

 

Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam, Professor at the Karolinska Institutet, praised the laureates by saying that although mRNA has been routinely used in various research laboratories for 60 years, it remained largely obscure outside the scientific community until recently, when “this year’s Nobel Prize laureates in physiology or medicine have ensured that the term mRNA is now broadly recognised”. The mRNA-based vaccine alerts our immune system to stimulate responses against the virus, protecting us against disease should we later become infected.

Katalin Karikó realized that it is necessary to observe how our cells respond to different forms of RNA, he added. The two laureates published their most important paper in 2005, in which they demonstrated that the mRNA evokes an undesired inflammatory response when delivered to human cells, however this reaction can be circumvented. This opened up a new era and this method enabled the development of an effective vaccine that helped save millions of lives 15 years later during the COVID pandemic. Professor Hedestam also pointed out that thanks to this method it is possible to greatly reduce the time needed for vaccine development.

Before the ceremony on Sunday, the new laureates gave their Nobel lectures on Friday. In his lecture entitled Attosecond physics: exploring subatomic motion Ferenc Krausz recalled that his scientific work had been driven by his desire to understand the attosecond motion of electrons. He described the breakthrough result he and his team achieved in 2001, when they became the first in the world to generate attosecond light pulses. In his lecture, he looked back at the major discoveries on which he has based his scientific work, listed the scientists – including his professor at University of Vienna Arnold Schmidt – who had the greatest influence on him, and then recalled in detail the stages of his research over the past two decades. Finally, he explained how their results can be used in medical diagnostics, including more efficient cancer screening, and he also mentioned research activities in Hungary. He concluded his presentation, which was received with great interest, by drawing attention to the situation of children affected by the war in Ukraine. “Just as all other children anywhere else, they deserve a chance to realize their dreams,” said Ferenc Krausz, who has also set up an association to support children in Ukraine.

Katalin Karikó’s lecture was entitled Developing mRNA for therapy. The scientist recalled the major milestones in mRNA research from 1961, when mRNA was discovered, to the present day. She remembered the scientists who played a major role in this research, and outlined the milestones in her own scientific career and the persistent research efforts that led from one result to another. She presented their research with Drew Weissman and listed the publications on their findings. In a lively lecture supported by slides she also stressed the importance of research and, in relation to the difficulties of scientific careers, she cited her own example of not giving up and always focusing on the next task. In her lecture, she referred to her years at the University of Szeged as an important starting point. At the end of the lecture, she thanked her former alma mater, where she learned the very basics of science.

 

Source: Hungarian Academy of Sciences, www.mta.hu

 

 

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