Noémi Lukács transformed her great-grandparents’ house into a research lab. The former carriage house and hayloft that was turned into a lab now provides the space where Lukács with her daughters produces her very unique product related to Covid-19 research.
Katalin Karikó and Norbert Pardi are not the only Hungarians contributing to the coronavirus vaccine development. The only place in the world where monoclonal antibodies that recognise double-stranded RNS (dsRNS) are produced and distributed in the village of Szirák, in Nógrád County, Hungary – says Metropol. Even before the pandemic the company received orders from the University of Cambridge, the Institut Pasteur, as well as Harvard and Stanford but the antibodies they produce became especially important in coronavirus research, and they are now distributed to 50 countries in the world, to companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech.
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that recognise a given molecule, mostly proteins and also bind to them. Lukács’s antibodies are special because instead of recognising proteins, they recognise double-stranded RNS with which the virus multiplication can be located in the body.
A group of the new coronavirus vaccines works not by taking virus proteins in the body but mRNS – information that codes them – so the cells themselves will produce the virus protein. These will be strangers to the immune system; therefore, it starts defensive reactions. According to Lukács, their antibodies are suitable not only for locating the multiplication of the coronavirus but for any other virus, too.
Lukács grew up in a village and spent a lot of time outside surrounded by plants and animals. At the end of high school, she accidentally came across a yellow book about biochemistry – the title she does not remember – and realised how interested she is in discovering things. She also advised her daughters to choose a profession that makes them happy without financial or external recognition. Lukács’s oldest daughter, Johanna, took the role of managing the company six years ago, and their sales have become six-times greater since.
Lukács lived and researched for a long time in Germany. She got married, received her PhD, and habilitated there, then moved back to Hungary with her three daughters after the regime change.
When asking why she established the lab in Szirák, Lukács told, it is her home, and she wanted to give something back to the community and show that not everybody who completes a higher education should leave.
Lukács with her family and company want to receive the vaccine, too. She said, the vaccines – according to data available for now – are safe, with only mild side effects, and the only way we can get out of the pandemic situation is by registering and getting the vaccine.