How Nobel Prize winner Catalin Carrico and others saved the world with mRNA vaccines | WIRED.jp Latest


Two University of Pennsylvania researchers have been selected for the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work developing fundamental technology for vaccine development using mRNA (messenger RNA). The technology developed by Katalin Carrico and Drew Weissman was highly praised for making it possible to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus at unprecedented speed and protecting many people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Do you know how much time it takes to develop a new vaccine? The fastest vaccine ever developed was the mumps vaccine, which began use in 1967 and took four years to develop. In recent years, vaccines typically take more than 10 years to develop. In contrast, the mRNA vaccine for the new coronavirus was completed in just one year. Calico and his colleagues have created a technology that can truly be called a game changer.

mRNA is a substance that conveys genetic information and contains information equivalent to the blueprint necessary to make proteins. If mRNA, the molecule that cells use to carry these genetic instructions, could be synthesized in the lab and delivered to cells, it would be possible to direct the patient’s cells to produce things like viral antigens and molecules that prevent cells from becoming cancerous. It is theoretically possible to give instructions. That’s what Calico and his colleagues have been thinking and researching.

However, when mRNA is administered to humans, it causes a rejection reaction within the body, making it difficult to apply it to medicine. “I had no idea that this could be used for humans,” Calico himself said in a 2021 interview with WIRED. In the early 2000s, in collaboration with Weissmann, he succeeded in creating an artificial mRNA molecule that could bypass the body’s defenses.

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Approximately 20 years later, the technology created by Calico and others has saved the world. And I will continue to save them. Regarding the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, Kariko said in an interview with WIRED: “I wasn’t worried. I knew the vaccine would be very effective.”

How did Carrico and Weissman create mRNA vaccine technology and, together with BioNTech, come to commercialization? And what kind of possibilities does it hold? Please read the following three articles for a deeper understanding of the details.

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