Researchers behind COVID-19 vaccines may be in the process of winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine, even though the pandemic is far from over.
Some researchers say it’s just a matter of time: If the work that went into developing the vaccines is not recognized when this year’s award is announced on Monday, it will win the award in the years to come.
More than 4.7 million people have died from COVID-19 since the first cases of the new coronavirus were detected in 2019, and many countries are still living under severe restrictions aimed at curbing the spread.
But COVID-19 vaccines have helped some wealthy states return to normal, while others have not yet received vaccine doses in large quantities.
Among those seen by other researchers as potential winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine are Hungarian-born Katalin Kariko and American Drew Weissman for their work with so-called Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines.
The MRNA vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have revolutionized the fight against the virus. They are fast to produce and extremely efficient.
“This technique will be awarded sooner or later, I’m sure,” said Ali Mirazami, a professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. “The question is when.”
Traditional vaccines that introduce a weakened or dead virus to stimulate the body’s immune system can take a decade or more to develop. Modern mRNA vaccine ranged from gene sequencing to the first human injection in 63 days.
MRNA transmits messages from the body’s DNA to its cells and tells them to make the proteins necessary for critical functions, such as coordinating biological processes, including digestion or fighting disease.
The new vaccines use laboratory-produced mRNA to instruct cells to produce coronavirus’ spike proteins, which stimulate the immune system to act without replicating like the actual virus.
SEASONS AT WORK
MRNA was discovered in 1961, but it has taken scientists decades to cure the mRNA technique from problems such as instability and causing inflammatory conditions.
Developers now hope it can be used to treat both cancer and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in the future.
“Apart from the fact that they have been shown to generate a very effective immune response, you do not have to tailor the production every time you make a new vaccine,” says Adam Frederik Sander Bertelsen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and scientific director at the vaccine company Adaptvac.
“It has actually saved countless thousands of people because of its speed and efficiency, so I can well support that.” Kariko, 66, laid the groundwork for the mRNA vaccines, and Weissman, 62, is her longtime collaborator.
“They are the brains behind the mRNA discovery,” Mirazami said. He added: “They may be too young, the (Nobel) committee usually waits until the recipients are in their 80s.”
Kariko, along with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, made a breakthrough by figuring out how to deliver mRNA without kicking the immune system into overdrive.
The Nobel Prize was founded by the dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and is awarded for achievements in medicine, chemistry, literature, peace and physics. This year’s winners will be announced between October 4 and 11, starting with medication.
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After the Nobel Prize for COVID-19 vaccine? first appeared on ARY NEWS.
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