“I am truly honored and humbled to receive the first IVI-SK bioscience Park MahnHoon Award,” Dr. Godal said. “IVI is one of the great innovations in global health and Dr. Park MahnHoon was an innovator who has contributed to making South Korea with SK bioscience one of the leading countries in vaccine development and manufacturing that is so much needed in this pandemic-prone world.”
Prof. Drew Weissman, a physician and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, has been cited for his contributions to RNA biology and the COVID-19 vaccines. He and his colleague Prof. Katalin Karikó jointly invented the modified mRNA technology being used in vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to prevent COVID-19. Profs. Weissman and Karikó, a biochemist and Senior Vice President at BioNTech and an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania, discovered a way to modify mRNA and then developed a delivery technique to package the mRNA in fat droplets (called lipid nanoparticles), which makes it possible for mRNA to trigger the body’s immune system to fight disease. This innovation made mRNA safe, effective, and practical for use, establishing a foundation for the two SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that have led the world’s fight against the pandemic virus.
“I wish to thank the organizers for awarding the prestigious award to Prof. Katalin Karikó and myself. This is the first IVI-SK bioscience Park MahnHoon Award and I hope we set good examples,” Prof. Drew Weissman said. “I also hope that we can help mRNA vaccines develop more in various fields including gene therapy for cancer, other than coronavirus vaccines.”
“I am thrilled and deeply honored to become the first recipient of the IVI-SK bioscience Park MahnHoon Award. The success of the mRNA vaccine technology demonstrates the power of innovation and the importance of persistence,” Prof. Karikó said. As a scientist, I focused my entire career on developing mRNA for therapy. I am incredibly pleased that the technology that I helped make possible is today saving millions of lives and has even more applications for the future.”
“IVI is privileged to acknowledge and congratulate the three awardees who have made extraordinary contributions to global immunization and vaccine development,” said Dr. Jerome Kim, Director General of IVI and Chair of the Award Selection Committee. “Commemorating the 25th anniversary this year as the world’s only international organization devoted to the development of vaccines for global health, IVI will continue to identify and recognize vaccine pioneers and innovators to promote the science of vaccine and global health, building upon the legacy of the late Dr. Park MahnHoon in collaboration with SK bioscience.”
SK bioscience CTO Hun Kim said, “I express my profound gratitude to those who devoted their lives to guarding global public health. As a researcher who spent more time with Dr. Park than any others, I will try to ensure his vision, passion and enthusiasm will pass on to younger colleagues to bear fruition.”
The IVI-SK bioscience Park MahnHoon Award annually honors up to two international individuals and organizations that made extraordinary contributions to the discovery, development and delivery of vaccines and advancement of global health. The award was launched to commemorate the legacy of the late Vice Chairman Dr. Park MahnHoon of SK bioscience. SK bioscience contributes funding for two 100 million Korean won (approx. $85,000 USD) annual prizes to IVI for the awards.