'Not of faculty quality': How Penn mistreated Nobel Prize-winning researcher Katalin Karikó
Three weeks ago, Penn hosted a flash mob for Katalin Karikó after she won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine. But the celebration masked a tumultuous, decades-long relationship between Karikó and the University.
Karikó, an adjunct professor of neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her past research into mRNA technology alongside co-laureate and Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research at the Medical School Drew Weissman. Karikó and Weissman's research was critical for the development of the COVID-19 vaccines — from which Penn has earned around $1.2 billion.
"At a University built around [a] Franklin spirit, there are no better exemplars of these character traits than our Nobel laureates, Dr. Kati Karikó and Dr. Drew Weissman," Penn President Liz Magill said at a press conference the day the prize was named.
However, eight current and former colleagues of Karikó told The Daily Pennsylvanian that — over the course of three decades — the University repeatedly shunned Karikó and her research, despite its groundbreaking potential.
The colleagues told a story of a researcher whose work ethic helped her succeed against all odds — including doubtful administrators, language barriers, and a system that cuts costs by demoting researchers who fail to earn grant funding.