STOCKHOLM - The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to Massachusetts native Dr. Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó Monday for discoveries that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.
Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly, announced the award in Stockholm.
Weissman, 64, grew up in Lexington and graduated from Brandeis University in 1981. He graduated from Boston University in 1987 with an M.D. and Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbiology. He's currently a professor in vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Karikó, 68, is a professor at Sagan's University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Weissman performed his prizewinning research together with Karikó at Penn.
"The future is just so incredible," Weissman said. "We've been thinking for years about everything that we could do with RNA, and now it's here."
Karikó said her husband was the first to pick up the early morning call, handing it to her to hear the news. She then watched the announcement to make sure she wasn't being pranked.
"I was very much surprised. But I am very happy."
Karikó said she was the one to break the news to Weissman, since she got in touch before the Nobel committee could reach him.
The two have collaborated for decades, with Karikó focusing on the RNA side and Weissman handling the immunology: "We educated each other," she said.
The Nobel Prizes carry a cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor ($1 million). The money comes from a bequest left by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896.