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A Message from Liz on International Women’s Day 2021

Virtuoso Principal highlights the extraordinary contributions of some leading women in the science space who helped produce innovations that will bring forward the post-COVID-19 world.

A message from LIz

I’m not given to "fangirling" very often but as it is International Women’s Day, I want to mention some of the women that I want to celebrate today.

Please join my applause for...

 

Ozlem Tureci.

Co-Founder of BioNTech. Scientist, physician, entrepreneur, visionary, leader in global healthcare.

Although credited with the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, in fact, Ozlem’s core work was (and is in) cancer treatments using immunology to boost a patient’s natural defences when combatting the disease.

BioNtech employs 1300 people and 50% of the workforce is female. Her first company Ganymed (a biotech firm that did research into immunotherapy for cancer treatment) sold for €422 million in 2016.

 

Katalin Kariko.

Katalin pioneered the work into using mRNA as a treatment for disease.

This was a concept that was so radical that she originally couldn’t get grant funding for it and was demoted at work.

Katalin developed the use of synthetic mRNA to use therapeutically and her research formed the basis of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and will lead to a host of new vaccine technologies moving forward.

 

Professor Sarah Gilbert.

A researcher into malaria vaccines at the Oxford Jenner Institute.

Sarah’s work had already involved her looking at vaccines to prevent Ebola and MERS (another type of Coronavirus) when she realised her knowledge would help in the development of a vaccine for Covid 19.

As soon as she was informed of the genetic structure of Covid-19 by a renegade scientist - who emailed the DNA sequence to her and other scientists before the Chinese Government could stop him - she set to work to create a Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccine was designed over a weekend and Prof Gilbert said "From the beginning, we're seeing it as a race against the virus, not a race against other vaccine developers. We're a university and we're not in this to make money."

 

Dr June Raine. Director of Vigilance and Risk Management and now Chief Executive at the MHRA.

When June was tasked with reviewing the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines she set up a team of 48 experts from outside the MHRA in early June 2020. This team was set up to ensure not only the best expertise but also to act as an independent body of leading scientists examining all of the important safety work before granting permission for any vaccine use in the UK.

Using her insight and knowledge of pharma testing gained over 30 years, she prepared the way for vigorous but speedy vaccine approvals.

As June put it herself, she viewed it as scaling a mountain. “This is why I like to think of it as climbing a mountain – months of careful planning and preparation; ready at the base camp when the interim data arrive; and when the final package arrives, we are ready to scale the peak.”

 

Conclusion

​I will let the achievements of these women speak for themselves.

All that I will say is that the continued greater understanding, recognition and support of women and other diverse voices such as the small sample above will invariably make the world a better place than it was yesterday.

Happy Women's Day everyone.

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