Breaking Through: My Life in Science by Katalin Karikó review – real-life lessons in chemistry

This vivid account of the Hungarian biochemist who endured decades of derision before pioneering Pfizer’s Covid vaccine is a tribute to her tenacity and self-belief

In May 2013, Katalin Karikó turned up for work at her laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania and found her belongings piled in the hallway. “There were my binders, my posters, my boxes of test tubes,” she recalls. Nearby a lab technician was shoving things into a trash bin. “My things!” Karikó realised.

Despite having worked at the tiny lab for years, the scientist – then in her 50s – was cast out, without notice, for failing to bring in “sufficient dollars per net square footage”. In short, she had not attracted enough grants to justify the meagre space she occupied.

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