European Inventor Award 2022 goes to Katalin Karikó

The European Patent Office (EPO) honoured Hungarian-American researcher Katalin Karikó, Senior Vice President at BioNTech AG, with the European Inventor Award 2022 in the category “Lifetime achievement”. The Award is one of Europe’s most prestigious innovation prizes.

“With her vision that significant medical benefit could be achieved with the mRNA molecule, Katalin Karikó has generated an impact that goes far beyond the now well-documented medical success”, says António Campinos, President of the European Patent Office. “Her dedication to science and perseverance together with the innovative quality of her research have gifted the world with a breakthrough innovation that holds potential for new perspectives in the fight against some of the worst medical threats to mankind around the globe.”

Katalin Karikó was born in Hungary in 1955. She was awarded a degree in biology from the University of Szeged in 1978 and a PhD in biochemistry from the same university in 1982. After working as a post-doc at the Biological Research Centre in Szeged she moved to the US in 1985, working first at Temple University Philadelphia and then the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland. In 1989 she took a position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to research mRNA. Based on this work, Karikó co-founded RNARx in 2006 with Drew Weissman. In 2013 she moved to Germany to take up a position with BioNTech AG, where she is currently Senior Vice President. Previous awards include the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Time Hero of the Year 2021, the Lasker Award, the Princess of Asturias Award and the Japan Prize, all of which she shared with Weissman, as well as the 2022 Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology. Karikó is named inventor in European patents EP2578685B1 (granted 2019), EP3287525B1 (granted 2019), EP3112467B1 (granted 2018) and EP2510099B1 (granted 2017).

The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, the award honours individuals and teams’ solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The finalists and winners are selected by an independent jury comprising former Award finalists. The EPO confers the Award in five categories (Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-EPO countries and Lifetime achievement). In addition, the public selects the Popular Prize winner from the 13 finalists by voting on the EPO website in the run-up to the ceremony.   This year, for the first time, the EPO is also awarding bright young minds with the Young Inventors prize. The new prize offers a monetary reward to the three finalists to further encourage them to find creative solutions to pressing sustainable development challenges.