Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, is a world-renowned physician and researcher at Penn Medicine, best known for his contributions to RNA biology and the COVID-19 vaccines. He and co-collaborator Katalin Karikó, PhD, invented the modified mRNA technology being used in Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's vaccines to prevent COVID-19.
More than 15 years ago at Penn Medicine, Weissman and Karikó found a way to modify mRNA and later developed a delivery technique to package the mRNA in fat droplets called lipid nanoparticles. This ensured that it could reach the proper part of the body and trigger the immune system to fight disease.
These laboratory breakthroughs made mRNA safe, effective, and practical for use as a vaccine against COVID. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received FDA approval in August 2021, and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized by the FDA for emergency use.
Dr. Weissman and his team are currently at work on a pan-coronavirus vaccine to stop the next coronavirus epidemic, a universal flu vaccine, and a vaccine to prevent herpes. They are working with Penn colleagues to develop cancer therapeutics with mRNA technology. Weissman's lab is also developing a SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine with Chulalongkorn University in Thailand to help residents of Thailand and other surrounding nations with fewer financial resources than the United States access lifesaving vaccines.
Before joining Penn in 1997, Weissman was a fellow at the National Institutes of Health studying HIV in the lab of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Weissman received his bachelor's degree and master's degree from Brandeis University. He earned his MD and PhD from Boston University and completed his residency at Beth Israel Hospital.
Read a Q&A with Dr. Weissman about mRNA vaccines