Hey Hey I saved the world today / Everybody’s happy now / The bad thing’s gone away. —Eurythmics

Every year I link to a story about the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Most of the time, I copy and paste the key paragraph, but I really don’t understand what was discovered or its relationship to the broader world of medicine that we all regularly encounter. This year, I still might not really understand the science. But even a humanities major can appreciate exactly how this year’s winners impacted our daily lives, or more accurately, how they gave us back our daily lives. “Two pioneers of mRNA research — the technology that helped the world tame the virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic — won the 2023 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology on Monday. Overcoming a lack of broader interest in their work and scientific challenges, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman made key discoveries about messenger RNA that enabled scientific teams to start developing the tool into therapies, immunizations, and — as the pandemic spread in 2020 — vaccines targeting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. ” (I know, I know. I hate to start off the week with something as contentious and controversial as life-saving science.)

+ “Before messenger RNA was a multibillion-dollar idea, it was a scientific backwater. And for the Hungarian-born scientist behind a key mRNA discovery, it was a career dead-end. Katalin Karikó spent the 1990s collecting rejections. Her work, attempting to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease, was too far-fetched for government grants, corporate funding, and even support from her own colleagues.” Luckily, she kept working at it. StatNews, back in November of 2020, when this story couldn’t have been more urgent. The story of mRNA: How a once-dismissed idea became a leading technology in the Covid vaccine race.