Katalin Kariko is a hero of Covid-19 vaccine development, single-mindedly pursuing the unorthodox research idea that cells could make their own medicines. She grew up in Hungary and moved to the US in her 20s. Now 66, she toiled in obscurity and job insecurity for years to prove that messenger RNA, the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery, could instruct cells to make vaccines. Her work with Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania laid the foundation for vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and potentially for vaccines to address other diseases such as HIV, malaria and influenza.

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