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Lasker for mRNA Vaccine Work

Researchers whose work enabled the development of mRNA-based vaccines are among this year's Lasker Award winners, The Scientist reports.

BioNTech's Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman from the University of Pennsylvania are the recipients of the 2021 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their work modifying messenger RNA so that cells would take it up and use it to produce proteins, rather than destroy it, The Scientist adds. This, the Lasker Foundation notes, enabled the development of mRNA-based vaccines, such as ones now deployed against COVID-19.

"So many enigmatic things about RNA I find very, very exciting," Karikó says in a press release from Penn Medicine, where she is also an adjunct professor. "And I am so glad that it eventually helped humanity." 

Other Lasker winners include Stanford University's Karl Deisseroth, Humboldt University of Berlin's Peter Hegemann, and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry's Dieter Oesterhelt for their work on optogenetics, and the California Institute of Technology's David Baltimore won for his leadership and science advocacy.

Earlier this month, Karikó and Weissman won the 2021 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.