Biochemist Kariko honored in her Hungarian hometown for her work with COVID

Hungarian-born biochemist Katalin Kariko, who played a crucial role in the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, has been made an honorary citizen of Szeged; where she began her university studies.

Kariko, vice president of BioNTech, is best known for her work on mRNA technology, which is used in the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines.

But the researcher believes she has done her best in the fight against the COVID epidemic and will now return to her previous projects, such as developing a cancer vaccine.

“I think at the moment, testing new options and, if necessary, creating a new vaccine, my colleagues can do this,” she said.

“I want to focus on making RNA that codes for therapeutic proteins that can help heal wounds, scar bones, or treat cancer patients.”

Katalin Cariko moved to the United States in the 1980s. Prior to that, she studied at the University of Szeged in southern Hungary, and then defended her doctoral dissertation at the Szeged Center for Biological Research.

In addition to receiving honorary citizen status, she met with her alma mater from the University of Szeged, and they recalled that some subjects were particularly difficult.

“My biggest fear was organic chemistry,” she recalls.

“Gabor Bernat taught us about all the heterocyclic compounds – we couldn’t stop remembering the special names. In the end, I chose the simplest, polyamines, which were very simple, there was nothing heterocyclic about them.”

Having received many professional awards, Catalin Cariko is now in contention for this year’s Nobel Prize.