Together with Katalina Karikó, EMTHERA co-speaker Özlem Türeci and member Uğur Şahin will share the 2022 Jeantet-Collen Prize for Translational Medicine. The prize is awarded to the team for their outstanding scientific achievements which led to the lightspeed development of mRNA-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The journey for utilizing mRNAs as key components of vaccines began in the 1990s, and Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci and Katalin Karikó played key and complementary roles in the development of a clinically effective and safe mRNA-based vaccine against COVID-19. Whilst Katalin Karikó investigated RNA-mediated immune activation and discovered that RNA modifications could suppress inflammatory responses against synthetic mRNA, Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci focused on mRNA-based drugs as individualized cancer immunotherapies. They solved several mRNA-associated vaccine problems by developing novel delivery methods to dendritic cells using, by enhancing stability; and increasing level of protein translation. The collective work of Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci and Katalin Karikó has not only played a decisive role in the worldwide containment of the COVID-19 pandemic but has proven the potential of mRNA as a new drug class.
The Louis-Jeantet Prizes are amongst the most prestigious awards for biomedical research. Since 1986, they have been awarded annually to distinguished scientists who are still actively pursuing research, and are intended not only as a recognition, but also to fuel future innovative work. When the research being recognised is close to practical applications for combating illnesses affecting humankind, one of the Louis-Jeantet Prizes converts into a Jeantet-Collen Prize for Translational Medicine, supported by generous donations from the Désiré Collen Stichting. The prize is endowed with 500,000 Swiss francs. The award ceremony was held on 11th October 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.