The ‘parents’ of the Covid vaccine, Princess of Asturias

Katalin Karikó, Drew Weissman, Philip Felgner, Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci, Derrick Rossi y Sarah Gilbert

The pandemic continues to be a protagonist in Princess of Asturias Awards. On this occasion, the Princess Award for Scientific and Technical Research 2021 wanted to acknowledge the experience and effort of the Scientific minds behind the Covid-19 vaccine.

They are Katalin Karikó (Biochemist), immunologists Drew Weissman and Philip Felgner, doctors Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci, biologist Derrick Rossi and vaccinologist Sarah Gilber, who are recognized for their contribution to the development of some of the vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus approved to date, based on different strategies.

The candidacy, proposed by the winner of this same award in 2007, Peter Lawrence, was thus the winner among the 48 that participated in this edition, from 17 nationalities.

The jury of these awards, each endowed with 50,000 euros wanted to value “the demonstration extraordinary ability of science“not only to face the problem, but also to get the first vaccines against coronavirus. In this sense, highlights the concrete work in recent months of these seven researchers, capable of developing different treatments, with the protein S as a common target.

A process that they have been perfecting for years and that has finally become the main solution to stop the virus. And in 1985, Philip Felgner discovered lipofection technology, present in lipid nanoparticles that serve as a vehicle for the administration of messenger RNA vaccines against Covid-19.

Katalin Karikó, a pioneer in the study of the therapeutic possibilities of this molecule, is considered, in fact, the mother of this type of vaccine. Together with the immunologist Drew Weissman, and after overcoming innumerable obstacles due to lack of funding, he began to work on vaccines based on mRNA and discovered how to prevent this molecule from causing strong inflammatory reactions by introducing small changes in the structure of RNA.

Development of 3 current vaccines

The results obtained by both served as a basis for Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci (BioNTech) and Derrick Rossi (Moderna) when developing these types of drugs based on mRNA that are already part of the global vaccination campaigns against Covid-19. Furthermore, the use of these vaccines can be extended to different areas of medicine such as cancer, autoimmune diseases or tissue regeneration.

Thanks to the vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, the availability of treatments has been greater. His work has made possible the development of the Oxfor-AstraZeneca vaccine, based on an adenovirus that is used as a vector to introduce the DNA encoding protein S into cells, thus stimulating the immune response.

The Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research It is awarded to the “work of cultivation and improvement of research, discovery and / or invention in mathematics, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, medical sciences, earth sciences and space and technological sciences, as well as the disciplines corresponding to each of these fields and the techniques related to them “. This has been the seventh of the eight Princess of Asturias Awards that are granted this year, in which they fulfill their forty-first edition.

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