The (not so) strange case of Katalin Karikó
The strange case of Katalin Karikó
Dr Katalin Karikó, joint winner of the physiology-medicine award, has received much comment in the media. Born and educated in Hungary, she has spent most of her career in the United States. But she has also held appointments in three other countries at a variety of institutions, and has most recently been senior vice president at BioNTech, a biotech company in Germany.
The debate stems from her time at the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked from 1989 to 2001, in positions ranging from scientific assistant professor, to senior head of research, to adjunct associate professor.
During that period, she was demoted from a tenure-track position in 1995, refused the possibility of reinstatement to the tenure track and eventually ushered into retirement in 2013.
Meanwhile, her close collaborator and fellow prize winner, Dr Drew Weissman, whom she met in 1997, remains at the University of Pennsylvania as professor of medicine, as well as being co-director of the immunology core of the Penn Center for AIDS Research and director of vaccine research in the infectious diseases division.
Some have pointed out that Karikó was working on risky or unconventional scientific themes, and that the usual funding agencies and senior academics were unable to see the promise in her work until recently, when she and her colleague Weissman have been recipients of multiple prizes. The fact that she received her doctorate from the University of Szeged in Hungary and not a prestigious institution in a major country may not have helped.
None of this story is surprising nor strange.