Katalin Kariko, whose work on mRNA technology was essential in developing the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, was recruited in 1978 when Hungary was under the Soviet-backed communist regime of János Kádár.
Kariko, who has been reported as a potential Nobel Prize winner, said she was blackmailed by the dreaded Hungarian state security service, which threatened to expose her father’s role in the revolution of 1956 against the Communist regime, making his career in medical research impossible.
But Kariko told Hungarian media that although she was listed as an agent, she never informed anyone during her time in Hungary or the United States, where she has lived since 1985.
“In the years that followed, I didn’t make any written reports, I didn’t harm anyone. In order to continue my scientific activity and my research, I had to leave, ”she said in a statement.
Euronews has contacted Kariko for comments.
Kariko’s role as a List Informant has been in the public domain since her name was listed in a book in 2017. But it was highlighted this weekend by right-wing media when she returned to Hungary for receive an honor for his work on COVID -19.
State Security Service Historical Archives Director General Gergő Bendegúz Cseh said there was no reason to doubt Kariko’s claim that she never informed anyone after her recruitment , claiming that his “working folder” was empty.
Admission is “extremely rare”
Krisztián Ungváry, a researcher on old state security documents, told Euronews that it was extremely rare for a person confronted with his role during the Communist era to admit what had happened rather than lie about the past.
He also said it was clear that Kariko was not active after moving to the United States in 1985, quashing speculations that she may have been drafted as a spy for Hungary while she was in America, as this would have been marked in his state security record.
Between 1945 and the collapse of communism from 1989, between 160,000 and 200,000 Hungarians were said to have been recruited by the security services. In 1977, the year before Kariko was recruited, there were almost 7,000 active officers.
Even 32 years later, the role of state security services remains controversial and controversial in Hungary.
Over the weekend, Kariko was named an honorary citizen of Szeged, Hungary, where she began her college career, while a profile in the New York Times in April 2021 described Kariko as a hero in the fight against COVID. -19.