Notes from the President's Office No.9 Celebrating Nobel Laureate Dr. Katalin Karikó
October 5, 2023
Professor Kohei Itoh President, Keio University
Dr. Katalin Karikó, who has made significant contributions to fundamental research on messenger RNA that led to the development of a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus, was awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Karikó received the 26th Keio Medical Science Prize in 2021 and visited Keio University in April 2022. I had the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely Saturday lunch with her at Mita Campus. Then, from September through October 2022, the Dr. Katalin Karikó Exhibition was held at Shinanomachi Campus, organized by the Embassy of Hungary, Tokyo with the cooperation of the Keio University School of Medicine. Its opening ceremony was splendid and was even attended by the Minister of Culture and Innovation of Hungary.
As a university, Keio conducted one of the largest workplace vaccinations at Mita Campus from June 2021. This led to the normalization of campus life for students and enabled those planning to study abroad to travel overseas. The vaccine at that time was also the result of the research conducted by Dr. Karikó and her colleagues, and Keio University expressed its sincerest gratitude to them.
One unfortunate matter was that the timing of Dr. Karikó's visit to Mita in April 2022—when face-to-face classes resumed in full for the first time in two years—precluded an interactive event between her and Keio students from being planned in advance. Dr. Karikó's life up to this point had been in all respects tumultuous. As detailed in the book Sekai wo Sukū mRNA Wakuchin no Kaihatsusha Katarin Kariko (“Katalin Karikó, Developer of the mRNA Vaccine That Will Save the World,” published by Poplar Publishing Co., Ltd. in 2021), she was born in Hungary and moved to the United States, devoting herself to fundamental research. Her journey was anything but smooth, yet she managed to successfully complete the research that led to her Nobel Prize despite depleting research funds. Moreover, Dr. Karikó's personal qualities have been nothing short of remarkable, with a sense of humor that turned all her hardships into happy memories and a sense of curiosity as a scientist that altogether made her a truly magnificent speaker. As such, it was regrettable that there could not be a direct exchange with the students. Nevertheless, we hope to plan such an opportunity in the future.
Dr. Karikó's visit and the holding of the exhibition were made possible by the cooperation of the Ambassador of Hungary to Japan at that time, H. E. Dr. Norbert Palanovics, and the Embassy of Hungary, Tokyo.