On Monday, two of the most well-known pharmaceutical corporations, Pfizer and Biontech, announced their breakthrough concerning the most promising coronavirus vaccine. According to them, it is exceptionally effective based on their tests concluded on 43.000 people as part of phase 3 of the testing procedure. Already back in June, their jointly developed vaccine was tested on almost 1000 people in Europe and the United States.
The project had already been mentioned as the most promising concerning the issue, but it couldn’t have become a reality without the contribution to the patent of a world-famous Hungarian biochemist, Karikó Katalin, said Forbes.hu. She is also the vice-president of German Biontech.
The American-based scientist told Forbes magazine back in June
“There will be an effective vaccine, although it is not sure whether mass production will be that of the most effective one. “
Their vaccine was developed quickly, and it seems to be safe – but what is the science behind it?
DNA chains make up our genes and so-called mRNA ( messenger ribonucleic acid) molecules transport information in our bodies to the cells, telling them which proteins they need to make. Decades of studies have shown that if a synthetically made mRNA appropriate for the whole RNA chain is injected into the body, it can protect against various infections. Based on the synthetic mRNA, the cells produce part of the protein of the infection and as a reaction to that our cells also make an antidote to fight the infection itself, if they encounter one.
Its huge advantage is that it can be produced much faster than other methods: only two months had passed between discovering the sequence of coronavirus and the first injection of the mRNA vaccine against SARS-Voc-2. Moreover, a vaccine like this doesn’t contain the whole genome of the virus, making it much safer by not causing any infection as a side-effect.
The vaccine presented this week used the researches and its patent of the joint work of Karikó Katalin and Drew Weismann from the University of Pennsylvania. Although their discovery received the recognition, it deserves only years after its publication.
The outbreak came in 2010 when a research paper of Derick Rossi ( scientist and researcher of Harvard University and MIT ) was published. The article is about how to create stem-cells based on modified mRNA molecules. Despite Karikó’s name not being on the list, the patent got a big international interest and gave credits to the Hungarian scientist as well. Karikó and Weismann wanted to acquire the rights for their own company called RNARx, but the Pennsylvanian university obtained them referring to their own costs of research leading to the discovery.
Nevertheless, Karikó’s contribution to the research, the formation of the process and the patent make her an important factor in the rush for the most effective and safest covid vaccine currently being tested and possibly very soon used worldwide.