Katalin Karikó’s struggle with mRNA gives universities mandate – if they want – to tackle persistent barriers
As the miracle behind the coronavirus vaccine grows increasingly clear, one US university is left to consider another potentially transformative discovery: why it jilted its inventor.
If it were not for the dogged determination and resilience of Katalin Karikó, we may never have our mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, or at least not so quickly. She deserves the highest honours. This case shows how significant institutional and academic politics can be for the road to scientific discovery. Institutions and funding bodies should reflect upon this and adopt mechanisms to identify when such circumstances are occurring.
Penn, however, is alleged to have repeatedly thrown roadblocks in the way of a chief innovator, Katalin Karikó, a soft-spoken Hungarian scientist who persisted for decades in her belief that mRNA could be fashioned into a powerful medical tool.
That determination is now paying off not only with vaccines against Covid-19, but with hopes of powerful new mRNA-based cures for cancers and other diseases.