In the three years since COVID-19 first emerged, at least 7 million people have been killed worldwide.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to US Professors Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman for developing the technology that led to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
The two pioneers of mRNA research have been applauded by the Nobel Prize committee for their work that saved the lives of billions.
“The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” the Nobel Prize committee said.
Kariko is a Hungarian-American biochemist specialising in ribonucleic acid-mediated mechanisms, while Weissman is best known for his contributions to RNA biology.
The pair not only receive their prize, which includes a diploma and a gold medal, but will also be able to cash in on a $1 million cheque.
The Covid-19 pandemic struck much of the world at the end of 2019 and forced global authorities to impose mass lockdowns for the most part of 2020. Since it was first detected, nearly 7 million people have died after contracting the virus.
To respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech used the mRNA technology introduced by the two researchers to develop vaccines that were quickly rolled out worldwide.
The mRNA technology contained the genetic instructions for building protein from the coronavirus. As explained by Pfizer, “our cells read the mRNA as a set of instructions, building proteins that match up with parts of the pathogen called antigens.”
“The immune system sees these foreign antigens as invaders—dispatching defenders called antibodies and T-cells—and training the immune system for potential future attacks. So, if and when the real virus comes along, the body might recognize it—sounding the alarm to help defend against infection and illness,” Pfizer states.
The landmark mRNA technology is widely believed to be the beginning of medical advancement, with research now looking into its use for other diseases, including cancer.
Meanwhile, other awards, including the physics, chemistry and literature prizes, are expected to be announced on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, while the economics award will follow on October 9.