Before the Nobel Prize, Weissman and Karikó Drew Honors, Support From Duke

Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó receiving their honorary degrees.

“Katalin and Drew, for your ground-breaking and indeed life-saving work, I am delighted to confer upon each of you the honorary degree of Doctor of Science and to express the gratitude of all of us, the world over, who have benefited from your efforts,” said Duke President Vincent Price in presenting the honorary degrees. The crowd responded with a standing ovation for the honorees.

The degrees solidified a long Duke connection that supported their research on mRNA vaccines.  In 2017, seven Duke researchers at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute took part in the first study to confirm the efficacy of the mRNA approach developed by Weissman and Karikó.

"This study was important since it was the first successful modified mRNA vaccine," said Dr. Barton Haynes, Frederic M. Hanes Distinguished Professor of Medicine, in 2022. Other Duke co-authors of the study were Laura L. Sutherland, Richard M. Scearce, Robert Parks, Jae-Sung Yu, Charles E. McGee and Gregory D. Sempowski.

Katalin Karikó is a senior vice president at BioNTech and an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Drew Weissman is the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research at the Perelman School of Medicine.