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Nobel Laureate Kariko: Determination Key to Success

  • Katalin Kariko at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Oct. 11, 2023.

    Katalin Kariko at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Oct. 11, 2023. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 12 October 2023

Her groundbreaking work laid the foundation for the development of mRNA-based vaccines.

Katalin Kariko, the Nobel laureate biochemist known for her pioneering work in mRNA-based vaccines that played a decisive role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, has emphasized the role of determination in scientific success.


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At a press briefing at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on Wednesday, Kariko highlighted the importance of determination over talent.

"I'm not a genius: even in elementary school, my grades in conversations were only average fours, while half of the class got fives because they just had to repeat what they heard," she admitted, recalling the impact of reading Hungarian endocrinologist Janos Selye's book at the age of 16, which taught her to manage stress and find positivity in every negative situation.

Kariko cited Selye's mantra: "Focus on what you can change." This resilience played a crucial role in her career, allowing her to persevere despite facing setbacks like being fired or demoted multiple times.

Kariko and her U.S. colleague Drew Weissmann were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work, which laid the foundation for the development of mRNA-based vaccines used against COVID-19.


Kariko said she hopes to use her new fame, which came with her Nobel Prize, to direct attention towards science and research.

"The field of science is advancing so much that a huge gap has formed... We need to help people better understand what is happening because fear comes from not understanding something," she said, adding that nobody foresaw that the future of mRNA research was in vaccines against infectious diseases.

"The mRNA itself is a new platform and provides an opportunity to achieve breakthroughs in many areas, not only in the development of vaccines against various viruses and bacteria but also in other areas using the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence."


During the discussion, Kariko commended the scientific revolution in China, noting a significant increase in high-quality publications originating from the country.

"I am confident that half of the scholarly contributions in the field of natural sciences are now coming from China," said Kariko, and emphasized the importance of a nurturing environment for young Chinese scientists, highlighting her modest upbringing and the pivotal role played by parents, teachers, and friends in shaping an individual.

Additionally, she noted the vibrant scientific culture in China, with thriving RNA centers and conferences attracting scientists from around the world, including the United States.

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