Collaborating with devoted colleagues, Dr. Kariko laid the groundwork for the mRNA vaccines turning the tide of the pandemic.
She grew up in Hungary, daughter of a butcher. She decided she wanted to be a scientist, although she had never met one. She moved to the United States in her 20s, but for decades never found a permanent position, instead clinging to the fringes of academia.
Now Katalin Kariko, 66, known to colleagues as Kati, has emerged as one of the heroes of Covid-19 vaccine development. Her work, with her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
For her entire career, Dr. Kariko has focused on messenger RNA, or mRNA — the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery. She was convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.
But for many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year.
Over the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has been delivering competitive advantage to businesses across a wide spectrum of industries. By Deloitte’s most recent count, 37 percent of organizations have deployed AI solutions (up 270 percent from 2016) and a majority predict it will “substantially transform” their companies by 2023.
The shift may also mean transforming their workforce.
“As AI drives these transformations, it is changing how work gets done in organizations by making operations more efficient, supporting better decision-making, and freeing up workers from certain tasks,” Deloitte reports. “The nature of job roles and the skills that are most needed are evolving.”
These realities put new pressures on schools to begin initiating students on AI early. And while colleges can sometimes spin up new courses and degrees to meet these evolving needs, school districts can’t always make those types of quick pivots. Anaheim Union High School District wants to buck that trend.
As part of its guiding principles, the district laid out a commitment to preparing students for the future workforce. One element of its Career Preparedness Systems Framework includes embedding career pathways that provide “intensive learning experiences and internships” in cutting-edge careers like AI, biotechnology and cybersecurity.