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Philadelphia Applauded and Honoured Katalin Karikó

Dr. Katalin Karikó, Biochemist, and her fellow US researcher Dr. Drew Weissman have received the 2022 Empowering Research and Discovery Award. The award from the National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI) organisation recognised the developers for their contributions to mRNA technology and the COVID-19 vaccines. The award ceremony was held in Philadelphia's iconic building in "The Union Legal". Katalin Karikó, Research Professor at the University of Szeged, was greeted with standing ovation and applause.

Participants of the event were neatly dressed to celebrate: women and men strode up the twin circular staircases of the red-bricked building, built in 1865. Union Legal, the commercial and cultural hub of the American metropolis, hosted the Service to Science Awards dinner of NDRI on 28 September 2022. The dinner was held to present the NDRI awards.

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Katalin Karikó arrived to the ceremony together with her husband, Béla Francia. The couple held hands as they walked through the corridors, which are enriched by the League's art collection. Its been 35 years since the family from Szeged settled in Philadelphia. These decades were appreciated by the NDRI from the perspective of Katalin Karikó, who started her research career in Szeged, then it continued as a biochemist at the University of Pennsylvania and later at BioNTech. NDRI, the non-profit organisation, has also joined the institutions honouring Katalin Karikó's research achievements and humanity.


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There are decades of research on mRNA, but less than a year to develop vaccines.

'The 2022 Empowering Research and Discovery Award is the latest reward for Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman' we wrote on the SZTE News Portal on 2 April 2022. The facts of the NDRI's announcement were expanded and eloquently presented by Susan Hockfield. The President Emerita and Professor of Neurology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), while the Chair of the NDRI Board of Directors, Mary J. C. Hendrix, in response to our question, emphasized that Katalin Karikó's knowledge and research work are not the only things that are worthy of honour. Numerous interviews have been conducted with the Hungarian biochemist, and longer and shorter biographies alike highlight her tenacious work with the messenger RNA. They also point to the fact that her single-minded, hardship-overcoming career has made her a role model for many and an iconic figure in science.


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Philadelphians stood and applauded as they celebrated the Hungarian biochemist living in their city. The name of the University of Szeged, the alma mater of Katalin Karikó, celebrating the 440th anniversary of her founding and the centenary of her move to the city on the banks of the River Tisza, was repeatedly mentioned in Lincoln Hall. The celebrant expressed her gratitude for the recognition. She spoke about the work she did with Drew Weissman, and then went on to describe the turning point in her life that mRNA has brought. She recalled that in Philadelphia, even at the University of Pennsylvania, she was introduced as "Kati, Susan French, mother of two-time Olympic champion rower...". With the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of the messenger RNA and its modification became public knowledge. It also brought a turnaround: she is no longer presented as the famous athlete's mother, but as the world-renowned researcher whose daughter won two Olympic gold medals. Following the story that made people laugh, she talked about how she had learned to deal with negative stress and turn it into as a positive. She revealed the secret: we only have to deal with the issues we can change. She concluded by saying that she owes her happiness to the wisdom she learned from the book of János Selye, stress researcher.


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Many of those have been honoured who were involved in the fight against Covid-19 disease and the coronavirus causing it. The role of the sponsors and supporters was discussed at the awards dinner: One of the missions of the nonprofit organization NDRI is to recruit donors in Philadelphia, which is one of the national centers for scientific research.


At the end of the awards dinner, the recipients received personal congratulations. The meeting concluded with a brief discussion and phote shooting amidst the traditional walls, precious artworks and historical relics of Union Legal. In the 340th year of its founding, Philadelphia continues to "Celebrate the Service of Science" in everyday life.

SZTEinfo - Ilona Újszászi
Photo by István Sahin-Tót
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For more information about Katalin Karikó, Research Professor at the University of Szeged, please visit the SZTE website.


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