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A Eureka! Moment: Vaccine Science Superheroes Honored By Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) today announced Katalin Karikó, Ph.D. of BioNTech Pharmaceuticals and the University of Pennsylvania, and Drew Weissman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania as winners of the 2021 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research.

Photo Insert: Katalin Karikó, Ph.D. of BioNTech Pharmaceuticals and the University of Pennsylvania, and Drew Weissman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania - winners of the 2021 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research.

The duo was honored for their foundational work that enabled the use of messenger RNA in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and holds tremendous promise for the development of future vaccines and therapeutics.


The company also recognized other scientists from across academia, government, and industry who have worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic to bring COVID-19 vaccines to the world as "Vaccine Science Superheroes" and donated $100,000 in their honor to IntraHealth International – a non-profit organization supporting front-line health workers tackling COVID-19.


"Among the dozens of nominations of deserving researchers, the work of Drs. Karikó and Weissman stood out not only for the impact it is already having on the COVID-19 pandemic but also for the potential it holds for preventing and treating other serious diseases," said Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., President of The Rockefeller University and Dr. Paul Janssen Award committee chair.


Karikó and Weissman were selected as the 2021 winners by an independent committee of world-renowned scientists. They join 19 scientists who have received the Dr. Paul Janssen Award since 2004, including five who went on to win the Nobel Prize.


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"It is a great honor to recognize the work of researchers like Dr. Karikó and Dr. Weissman, and all of the COVID-19 vaccine science superheroes who embody the same curiosity, perseverance, and commitment to improving human health as Dr. Paul Janssen," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson. "They persevered in the face of so many obstacles along their science journey, and today their work is helping save millions of lives all over the world."


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Johnson & Johnson honored these remarkable scientists during a live webcast program "Eureka Moments: Vaccine Science Superheroes" on September 28, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. ET via Johnson & Johnson's page on LinkedIn. The program showcased the scientists behind the headlines whose Eureka moments are improving human health, including perspectives from Drs. Karikó and Weissman and other scientists involved in developing COVID-19 vaccines including: Dr. Dan Barouch, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Professor Sarah Gilbert, Oxford; Dr. Tonya Villafana, AstraZeneca; Dr. Andrea Carfi, Moderna; Drs. Hanneke Schuitemaker1 and Shirley Sylvester2, Johnson & Johnson. The broadcast also will feature a fireside chat about what COVID-19 has taught the world about health equity.


Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

"While I am accepting the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, I reflect on my humble beginning, the support of my family, teachers, mentors, and colleagues who helped me on my journey," said Dr. Karikó. "I think about all those hard-working fellow scientists who are so passionate about their work and immensely contributed to the success of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine."


"I am greatly honored to receive this award, but the honor really goes to all basic science researchers who made the modified mRNA-LNP vaccines for COVID-19 possible," said Dr. Weissman.


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"Now more than ever, the world needs science to come to the rescue," said Seema Kumar, Global Head, Office of Innovation, Global Health and Scientific Engagement, Johnson & Johnson.


"We are pleased to recognize the extraordinary scientists behind the COVID-19 vaccines and to showcase the dedicated men and women who are behind the lab coat and on the frontlines of the fight against serious diseases. They are a special squad of superheroes. 'Eureka!' moments is our attempt to bring you their stories."



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