Scientific decades of this mRNA research led to COVID vaccines


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Half a hour outside Philadelphia, in a modest suburban house, a quirky, cheerful 65-year-old scientist lives, which is a big part of the reason that people might be able to throw off their masks next year.

Leading Dr. Katalin Kariko – who ran a 30-year Communist-run for America in 1985 for $ 1,200 hidden inside his 2-year-old daughter’s teddy bear – is not as powerful or wealthy as Modern’s Steven Bansell or BioNotech’s Ugur Sahin . Nor was he ever celebrated.

Kariko’s obsessive 40-year research into synthetic messenger RNA has long been considered a boring dead-end. She said she was constantly ignored, despised, fired, revoked, repeatedly denied government and corporate grants, and threatened with deportation – among other outrages.

Now, while others are making billions, if you ask him what his deductions are, he rolls his eyes with a hoarse laugh and says, “maybe $ 3 million.”

However, Kariko held fast to his belief in mRNA, which became the key to the creation of the complex technology behind the new vaccines developed by Modern and Germany’s BioNotech (which is co-produced with Pfizer).

Scientists say they could not have won the global vaccine race without it.

“Yes, I was pretty humiliated, but now you can see that I was absolutely right,” Kariko told The Post while smiling and joking in her living room. “All is well. I just love my work and I continue to believe in all its possibilities. I am so happy that I lived long enough to bear my work.”

Dr.  Katalin Currico
Dr. Katalin Currico
Matthew McDermott

Messenger ribonucleic acid, first discovered at Caltech in 1961, is called the “software of life”. Unlike other vaccines, which involve injecting dead viral residues into the body, a vaccine using mRNA sends a set of instructions into cells that teach – and trigger – them to fight the disease. It has been described as a hygienic vaccine – and the implications for preventing malaria and multiple sclerosis from cancer and stroke of Kovid and other diseases are clearly off the charts.

Armies of scientists, including many mRNA experts, have helped develop modern and biotech vaccines. But it was Carico – with the help of Drew Weissman, a University of Pennsylvania immunologist – who in 2005 discovered a method to block the body’s inflammatory response to synthetic mRNA.

That simple modification paved the way for both Bayonet and Modern vaccines.

“I think he should get the Nobel Prize in Chemistry,” said Derrick Rossi, one of the country’s leading molecular biologists, the Post said. A former Harvard professor, Rossi saw Kariko’s disregard, but watershed research recognized its potential after it was published in 2005 and built it when he founded Modern in 2010 (in 2014 he left the company .) “That’s the real deal.”

Dr.  Katalin Carico at her home office in Riddle, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Katalin Carico at her home office in Riddle, Pennsylvania.
Matthew McDermott

. But until she was distracted by this month’s news showing that both Modern and Bayonetake vaccines are up to 95% successful in the late-stage COVID-19 trial, Kariko’s career was long, thanks.

She should be pushed to provide details, but other scientists interviewed by The Post supported her claims that she had a very rocky time in academia.

” [former] The UP chairman treated me very badly and at one point drove me out of my lab. “This was where I did some of my main searches, but could not understand. They told me that I could have a small office near the animal house for my lab.

Carico said she asked Penn’s new president to be removed from the post, as she would only be told that it was not “faculty material”.

Carnico did not respond to UPNE Post regarding the claims of misconduct.

“He’s making none of that,” Rossi told the Post. “She went through some exceptionally difficult times in her career. But at the same time, Kate is not the best promoter and marketer of her work. She tried to start her own company, but was unsuccessful, as she was not sued for helping to raise money. He is a scientist and not all of them understand business well. “

Weirdly, Kariko doesn’t seem bitter – even though her slice of the mega-appealing vaccine pie is far too small. In contrast, Modern investors such as Modern CEO Stefan Bansel and MIT Professor Bob Langer and Harvard Professor Tim Springer as well as Ugur Sahin, Turkish owner of BioNotech, became billionaires in the last month, when their company prices skyrocketed.

Dr.  Katalin Currico
Dr. Katalin Currico
Matthew McDermott

“Kate Currico is a superstar,” Dr. David Langer, president of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital Wrote on twitter last week. “She went through such hardship and went much further. I saw it and kept his supreme work ethic and focused and always did what was right against all odds. She deserves great gratitude from all of us. “

Kariko was asked to join a German company, BioNTech, as a senior vice president but carefully told The Post that his name is not even on the BioNTech website. She stated that she could earn $ 5 to $ 10 million in the future as a result of her engagement with BioNTech.

Kariko during a two-hour socially distant interview at home with her Hungarian engineer husband Bella Francia in the living room to complete with a rowing machine and humor with giant plants taken from the deck during the winter Ki spoke openly with a constant glow. Scattered throughout the house.

Although Kariko had cancer several years ago, he greeted the Post reporter and photographer by wearing a mask, but later removed it and kept it closed during the interview. She said she plans to get a new vaccine and said “no one should be afraid of it.”

The workaholic Cariko, who wakes up every day at 5 in the morning and has a lab in her basement, prefers to hop on a rowing machine in her living room and start a rapid fire, still lavishly in English with nucleosides. Antigens, short and long RNA varieties, proteins, cells, and spikes are pronounced.

She and her husband, who both sneak into their respective workspaces in the basement, are proud of their 6’2 Franc daughter, Susan Francia, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Francia, who began working as an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a university coach, received athletics from her parents. Both Katalin and Bella were marathon runners.

Along with her daughter Olympian Susan Francia and husband Drs.  Katalin Kariko.
Along with her daughter Olympian Susan Francia and husband Drs. Katalin Kariko.
Matthew McDermott

Kariko, 65 years old, in a small house in Kizzzeles, 93 miles west of Budapest, in a one-room house with a stove, no running water and no fridge. He got his first taste of science by carefully examining the butcher’s bloody pig carcasses by his pig’s father.

She said she always felt that she lagged behind other students when she first started university, but eventually moved on, winning a significant scholarship for advanced studies in biochemistry in Hungary. He started focusing on mRNA in Hungary in 1978.

When she was offered a position at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1985, when she was fired from the sacked biological research center where she was studying mRNA, she and her husband, an engineer, drove their car Sold in the black market for $ 1,200 and stitched money. Susan’s teddy bear. It was illegal to withdraw cash from the country.

Kariko entered the University of Pennsylvania as a professor in 1990 and immediately began applying for grants to help with the study of mRNA but was repeatedly turned down. His fortunes changed in 1998 when he met and began working with immunologist Drew Weissman in U.P.

Dr.  Katalin Kariko works in the home office here.
Dr. Katalin Kariko works in the home office here.
Matthew McDermott

Curico was offered positions at both Modern and BioNotech but chose BioNotech in 2014 because it preferred Modern’s controversial CEO Bansell to Sahin and his wife.

Kariko said that the people of Banksel told him that if he signed with Modern, he could be fired at a moment’s notice – and would not be able to work in a competitive company for two years.

“Can you imagine,” he said, laughing again. “It is my discovery that helped his company make it happen, but it was the deal they offered me. no, thanks.”

As he can do with him the $ 3 million windfall and possibly in the offing, Kariko shook his head.

“I like what I have and where I live and what I do.” I am busy every day. nothing will change.”

Modern did not return calls from the post.

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