Hungarian Biochemist Katalin Karikó Granted Honorary Degree by Harvard

  • 26 May 2023 9:09 AM
Hungarian Biochemist Katalin Karikó Granted Honorary Degree by Harvard
The Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó, whose work in mRNA research helped develop Covid vaccines in record time, has just been awarded an honorary degree by Harvard University.

At a special ceremony, Karikó was one of six eminent figures granted the award. At the event, Harvard’s 372nd commencement that conferred 1,850 college degrees to graduates, Hollywood star Tom Hanks gave a keynote speech, urging students to resist manipulating the truth for personal gain.

“The responsibility is yours. Ours,” said Hanks, invoking his role as a Harvard professor in the ‘Da Vinci Code’ films. “The effort is optional. But the truth is sacred. Unalterable. Chiselled into the stone and the foundation of our republic.”

Born in Hungary in 1955, Karikó emigrated to America with her family 30 years later. There she met immunologist Drew Weissman and their collaboration in mRNA research would prove vital in the development of a vaccine during the Covid pandemic.

Following her work with German biotechnological company BioNTech, behind the Pfizer vaccine administered to millions, Karikó has been presented with many prestigious awards across the world, from Stanford University to the tiny community of Kisújszállás where she grew up.

Words by Peterjon Cresswell
Peterjon has been researching the bars and byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website

Photo: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

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