Congratulations to Katalin Karikó and Anne Schuchat 2023 Fries Prize for Improving Health Recipients

Yesterday I was excited to attend the Fries Prize for Improving Health award ceremony at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) opening session. This year’s Fries Prize recipients are Katalin Karikó, PhD, and Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS, RET). Both women are so inspiring and fearless. Millions of people have been positively impacted by their commitment and passion for saving and improving lives.

Dr. Karikó, biochemist and researcher best known for her contributions to mRNA technology, was also awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year. Karikó and her research partner, Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, with whom she shares the Nobel Prize, laid the foundation for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Karikó is a professor at the University of Szeged and adjunct professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, where she has worked for 24 years. For four decades, her research has focused on RNA mediated mechanisms with the ultimate goal of developing in vitro-transcribed mRNA for protein therapy. Her discovery of the mRNA technology used to rapidly develop the COVID vaccine changed the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and paved the way for mRNA treatments for a large number of other acute and chronic diseases.

During her 33 years at CDC, Dr. Schuchat’s roles included principal deputy director, acting CDC director, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), chief of the Respiratory Diseases branch and Epidemic Intelligence Service officer.

Dr. Schuchat played key roles in CDC emergency responses including the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 outbreak of E-cigarette or Vaping-associated Lung Injuries, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza response, the 2003 SARS outbreak in Beijing and the 2001 bioterrorist anthrax response. Globally, she has worked on meningitis, pneumonia and Ebola vaccine trials in West Africa, conducted surveillance and prevention projects in South Africa, and served on the board of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. Schuchat is credited with saving thousands of babies in the United States by preventing neonatal Group B Streptococcal disease. During the decade she led the NCIRD, Schuchat emphasized tools for improved communications with parents to sustain childhood immunizations and supported the introduction of several new vaccines in the United States and around the world.

As Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation stated, “Drs. Karikó and Schuchat exemplify the true meaning of the Fries Prize for Improving Health—doing the most good for the most people,” and I could not agree more.

The CDC Foundation is honored to partner with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation to present the Fries Prize for Improving Health, each fall. Drs. Karikó and Schuchat join a long and distinguished list of Fries Prize recipients.

Diana Robelotto
Diana Robelotto Scalera is the director of alumni affairs for the CDC Foundation.