Unforgettable: The women that changed Biotech

[from left to right, Ozlem Tureci, Kizzmekia Corbett, Katalin Kariko and Emma Walmsley. Sources: Wikipedia.com, Harvard.com, Britannica.com, fortune.com]

On March 20222, we mentioned ‘Women in History Month’ celebrating and acknowledging women’s contributions to human history. In celebration of this significant month and before it officially comes to an end, we gathered a few women who changed the face of Biotech and led us in the fight against COVID-19:

Ozlem Tureci

Ozlem Tureci is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of BioNTech, a German biotech company that developed the world’s first authorized mRNA vaccine for preventing COVID-19. She led “Project Lightspeed,” BioNTech’s successful and historic project for developing the vaccine, which was completed in less than one year. Tureci and her husband, Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, make an inspiring “Power Couple” in the pharma industry.

Tureci is a woman of many specialties as she is a physician, Immunologist, cancer researcher, and entrepreneur. Tureci’s current focus is on cancer research; she led the efforts in the discovery of cancer antigens and the development of individualized as well as off-the-shelf mRNA vaccines. She aims to use personalized approaches to help the patient’s immune system defend itself against cancer. This is a unique and more effective approach when dealing with cancer treatment methods. In addition to her ongoing research and initiatives, Tureci is a professor at the University Medical Center Mainz and Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology Mainz (HI-TRON) for personalized immunotherapy.

Ozlem Tureci is an inspirational business and biotech leader. Her dedication, love of science, motivation, and brilliance contributed to the creation of this list of accomplishments that we are sure will only continue to grow.

Katalin Kariko

Katalin Kariko is a Hungarian American biochemist known as one of the “heroes” of the development of the Covid-19 vaccine. Her work and development of “In Vitro-Transcribed mRNA Therapies” laid the groundwork for research for the vaccines developed by the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership with Moderna.

Kariko’s ideas in mRNA development were considered to be unorthodox for many years and were not always understood or approved by surrounding scientists. Her biggest challenge was to receive the grants necessary to fund her research. Kariko did not give up and through her persistence she prevailed which led her to life-changing discoveries, helping the world conquer the covid-19 pandemic.

Kariko received multiple well-deserved awards as acknowledgment for her breakthroughs and life-changing research. Some of the awards include the “Breakthrough Prize” in life sciences and “Glamour Women of The Year”. Many also argue that she deserves a Nobel Peace Prize – we definitely agree!

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett 

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is an American viral immunologist and assistant professor of Immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University. She played an integral part in the creation and development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Corbett was appointed to the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the NIAID NIH institute and was the scientific lead of the VCR’s Covid-19 Team.

Dr. Corbett is now leading her private lab at Harvard University, called the T.H Chan School of Public Health’s department of immunology and infectious diseases. In her lab, Dr. Corbett focuses on viral immunology that can assist in pandemic preparedness and the development of universal vaccines.

Dr. Corbett was highlighted in February 2021 in the Time’s “Time100 Next” list, under the category Innovators. Her passion and humane approaches are disclosed to all. Corbett feels strongly about a family work environment and believes that each person is a crucial and equal part of the system.

Emma Walmsley

Last but not least, Emma Walmsley is the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British multinational pharmaceutical company, and is considered the first woman ever to run a major pharmaceutical company. GSK collaborated with Sanofi, a French multinational healthcare company, to contribute to the worldwide effort in developing the Covid-19 vaccine.

Since taking over the role of CEO at GSK, Walmsley has led a global reconstruction program that aims to save the company significant amounts of money. The program shifted the company’s focus to four main areas of research and development: respiratory, HIV, Oncology, and immune inflammation.

Walmsley presented a courageous and strong approach when joining GSK, not afraid to take charge and “shake things up”. Thanks to Walmsley, GSK is also one of the prominent Biotech companies to take an open stand against the injustices currently occurring in Ukraine.

These magnificent women didn’t fight alone in the war against Covid-19. Many other women, who were not mentioned in this list, contributed to the causes, changing the fields of Science and Biotech as we knew them.

This article is written by Katherine Gray.

Katherine Gray is a Boston-based Journalist who specializes in Health Care. Also active at ‘The Activist Lab’, Katherine often deals with topics such as social injustice in the fields of Health and Science.

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