Cancer Research Institute Event Calendar



Future Look: How COVID-19 Vaccines Are Accelerating New Cancer Treatments

Join CRI for an in-depth look into the newest and most exciting approach to vaccination in our lifetime…mRNA vaccines.

This exclusive, invitation-only event celebrates the four key scientists whose research has led to the first two lifesaving mRNA vaccines now being used in the global fight against COVID-19. On November 10, CRI will bestow the 2021 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology on Katelin Karikó, PhD, of BioNTech and the University of Pennsylvania, Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, and BioNTech co-founders Ugur Sahin, MD, PhD, and Özlem Türeci, MD, PhD

Alice Park of TIME MagazineAlice Park of TIME Magazine will moderate a historic joint interview with the honorees who will share their thoughts on how mRNA vaccine technology will transform cancer treatment in the future.



Katalin KarikóKatalin Karikó graduated from University of Szeged, Hungary in 1978, and received a doctoral degree in biochemistry from the same university in 1982. She continued her research at the Biological Research Centre in Szeged, at the Temple University in Philadelphia and at the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania where she worked for 24 years. Since 2013, Karikó is a senior vice president at BioNTech located in Mainz, Germany, where she is leading the mRNA-based protein replacement programs.

For four decades, her research has been focusing on RNA-mediated mechanisms with the ultimate goal of developing in vitro-transcribed mRNA to treat acquired and genetic diseases. She was perfecting the therapeutic mRNA for years, and in 1997, joined forces with Drew Weissman. Together they made mRNA suitable for medical use by replacing the uridine with pseudouridine, thus making the mRNA non-inflammatory. They and their team further demonstrated that such modified mRNA formulated with LNP can be a potent vaccine. This technology ultimately became the basis for the FDA approved COVID-19 mRNA vaccine that is used to combat the current global pandemic. Their pioneering work fueled a number of advances and has opened the door for future therapeutics.

Karikó has received prestigious awards, including the Széchenyi Prize, Rosenstiel Award, Reichstein Medal, Horwitz Prize, and the Lasker Award.

Ugur SahinProf. Ugur Sahin, MD, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, is a physician, immunologist, and leader in the development of novel approaches to fight cancer and infectious diseases. Sahin is one of the world’s foremost experts on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) medicines. He has pioneered several breakthroughs enabling the development of mRNA vaccines and other types of immunotherapies. Sahin initiated and oversees “Project Lightspeed,” the historic development of the first mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, moving from lab and clinical testing to conditional approval within an unprecedented 11-month period.

He also leads BioNTech’s research and development of neoantigen specific mRNA cancer vaccines which are individually tailored and produced on demand according to the profile of non-synonymous mutations identified by next-generation sequencing in patients’ tumors. Ugur Sahin is co-inventor of more than 500 filed patent applications and patents. Sahin’s academic credentials include serving as a Full Professor (W3) in Translational Oncology and Immunology at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, where he was the supervisor for more than 50 PhD students. He also holds the role of Chairman of the Scientific Management Board of the Helmboltz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON) also in Mainz. Based on his contributions to scientific discovery, Dr. Sahin has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the German Sustainability Award, the Mustafa Prize, and the German Cancer Award. He is married to Dr. Özlem Türeci.

Özlem TüreciÖzlem Türeci, MD, co-founder and chief medical officer of BioNTech, is a physician, immunologist, and cancer researcher with translational and clinical experience. She has helped lead the discovery of cancer antigens, the development of mRNA-based individualized and off-the-shelf vaccine candidates and other types of immunotherapies which are currently in clinical development. Türeci leads the clinical development of BioNTech’s “Project Lightspeed,” the company’s successful effort to develop and distribute an mRNA-based vaccine against COVID-19, a historic achievement completed in less than one year. She previously served as CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Ganymed Pharmaceuticals AG, which she co-founded with Ugur Sahin and Christoph Huber. The company was acquired by Astellas in 2016. She currently serves as President of the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT) in Germany. She is a recent recipient of the Germany Sustainability Award, among other notable recognitions. She is married to Prof. Ugur Sahin.

Drew WeissmanDrew Weissman, MD, PhD, is a professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He received his graduate degrees from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Weissman, in collaboration with Dr. Katalin Karikó, discovered the ability of modified nucleosides in RNA to suppress activation of innate immune sensors and increase the translation of mRNA containing certain modified nucleosides. The nucleoside-modified mRNA-lipid nanoparticle vaccine platform Dr. Weissman’s lab created is used in the first two FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They continue to develop other vaccines that induce potent antibody and T cell responses with mRNA–based vaccines. Dr. Weissman’s lab also develops methods to replace genetically deficient proteins, edit the genome, and specifically target cells and organs with mRNA-LNPs, including lung, heart, brain, CD4+ cells, all T cells, and bone marrow stem cells.

Generous sponsorship provided by:

Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation

Association for Cancer Immunotherapy CIMT
Clayton Dubilier & Rice LLC
Debevoise & Plimpton
Thomas and Andrea Mendell Foundation

Susan and Jim Blair
Caris Life Sciences
Geoffrey Coley
The Mark Haas Foundation
Sarah Kim
Merck & Co., Inc.
Morgan Stanley Foundation
Morgan Stanley Investment Banking Division
Lauren S. Veronis



Sponsorship opportunities available.
Email for more information.

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