Nobel Prize in Medicine for COVID-19 Vaccine? It may be too early

Ampoules of a mRNA-like vaccine candidate for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are pictured at Chulalongkorn University during the development of an mRNA-like vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2020. REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha / File Photo

  • Nobel Prize in Medicine to be announced on Monday
  • COVID-19 vaccine work could be recognized – scientists
  • Vaccines have helped some countries return to near normalcy

STOCKHOLM, Oct. 1 (Reuters) – Scientists behind COVID-19 vaccines could be in contention for the Nobel Prize in medicine even though the pandemic is far from over.

Some scientists say it’s only a matter of time: If the work devoted to vaccine development is not recognized when this year’s award is announced on Monday, it will win the award in years to come.

More than 4.7 million people have died from COVID-19 since the first cases of the new coronavirus were recorded in 2019, and many countries still live under severe restrictions designed to curb its spread.

But COVID-19 vaccines have helped some wealthy states return to near normalcy while others have yet to receive large doses of the vaccine.

Among those other scientists see as potential Nobel Prize winners in medicine are Hungarian-born Katalin Kariko and American Drew Weissman for their work on so-called ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines. Messenger.

The mRNA vaccines developed by Moderna (MRNA.O) and by Pfizer (PFE.N) and its German partner BioNTech have revolutionized the fight against the virus. They are quick to produce and very efficient.

“This technique will get the prize sooner or later, I’m sure,” said Ali Mirazami, professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. “The question is when.”

Traditional vaccines, which introduce a weakened or dead virus to boost the body’s immune system, can take a decade or more to develop. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine went from gene sequencing to the first human injection in 63 days.

MRNA transmits messages from the body’s DNA to its cells, telling them to make proteins necessary for critical functions, such as coordinating biological processes, including digestion or fighting disease.

The new vaccines use mRNA made in the lab to instruct cells to make advanced coronavirus proteins, which prompt the immune system to act without replicating like the real virus.


MRNA was first discovered in 1961, but it took decades for scientists to remedy the mRNA technique for problems such as instability and the onset of inflammatory conditions.

The developers are now hoping that it can be used in the future to treat both cancer and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

“In addition to the fact that they have been shown to generate a very effective immune response, you don’t need to adjust production every time you make a new vaccine,” said Adam Frederik Sander Bertelsen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and scientific director of the vaccine company Adaptvac.

“He has actually saved countless thousands of people due to his speed and efficiency, so I can support him well.” Kariko, 66, laid the groundwork for mRNA vaccines and Weissman, 62, is her longtime collaborator. L1N2I2315

“They are the brains behind the discovery of mRNA,” Mirazami said. He added: “They may be too young, the (Nobel) committee usually waits until the recipients are 80 years old.”

Kariko, along with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, made a breakthrough in figuring out how to deliver mRNA without overheating the immune system.

The Nobel Prize was founded by the inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel and is awarded for achievements in medicine, chemistry, literature, peace and physics. This year’s winners are announced between October 4 and 11, starting with Medicine.

Additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen, editing by Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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