The Nobel Prize-winning American physician-scientist Drew Weissman was born on September 7, 1959, and is best recognized for his work in the field of RNA biology. His research was used to create mRNA vaccines, the most well-known of which being those for COVID-19 created by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.
Weissman is a professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), the first Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, and the director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation.
Numerous honors have been awarded upon him and his research colleague Katalin Karikó, including the renowned Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Together with Karikó, he was awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries regarding nucleoside base changes that allowed the invention of effective vaccines against covid 19.
Early life and education
Weissman was born to an Italian mother and a Jewish father on September 7, 1959 in Lexington, Massachusetts.Despite the fact that his mother did not become a Jew, he grew up following all the Jewish holidays. In Lexington, Massachusetts, he was educated. and graduated from Lexington High School in 1977.He studied in biochemistry and enzymology at Brandeis University, where he also worked in Gerald Fasman’s lab, earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees there in 1981. At Boston University, he completed his graduate work in immunology and microbiology to get his M.D. and Ph.D. in 1987. Weissman then completed a residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center before completing a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where Anthony Fauci, the NIH’s director at the time, was in charge.
Career of drew weissman
Weissman, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania, collaborated with Katalin Karikó to develop RNA technology for vaccines. They faced challenges with RNA causing unwanted immune and inflammatory reactions. In 2005, they published a study that modified RNA to prevent degradation, laying the groundwork for RNA therapeutics. In 2006, they co-founded RNARx to develop novel RNA therapies. Their modified RNA technology became the foundational component of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Weissman also collaborates with Chulalongkorn University to develop COVID-19 vaccines for low-income countries.
Recognition of Drew Weissman
The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the 2020 Rosenstiel Award,the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, the Albany Medical Center Prize, the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award(also with Robert S. Langer) were all given to Weissman and Karikó for their work on mRNA.
Weissman received an honorary degree from the college of medicine at Drexel University. In the year 2021, he received the Princess of Asturias Prize for Scientific Research. He received the Japan Prize, the Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for 2022, all in collaboration with Katalin Karikó. Additionally in 2022, he was awarded the Robert Koch Prize and the Golden Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science.
Weissman and his colleague Katalin Karikó are co-inventors on many patents, including US8278036B2 and US8748089B2 which describe the alterations needed to make RNA appropriate for vaccinations and other treatments. Later, Gary Dahl, the founder and CEO of Cellscript, obtained a license to exploit these patents. Dahl then granted this license to Moderna and BioNTech, who used the technique in their COVID-19 vaccines.