Meet the women scientists who are leading the battle against COVID-19

Women scientist

As countries, including India, reel under the Coronavirus pandemic, several women scientists are powering through with their uncompromising attitude to help rebuild the nation and the world

The Indian mythology and folklore are replete with accounts of legendary women, armed with swords, bows and arrows, fighting in wars and eventually emerging as winners. Women were warriors then; women are warriors now. Today, they are fighting an unseen enemy – a virus that has taken scores of lives across the world.  Their weapons have changed, too. But what hasn’t changed is their exceptional resilience and determination to win every battle with courage and conviction.

The world is facing a crisis like no other. In such trying times, it is the frontline workers who are risking their lives to ensure that others stay safe; it is our medical researchers who are working at record speed to develop a vaccine and effective treatments. We bring you such six women scientists who are going above and beyond their call of duty to make sure that the nation and the world come out of this pandemic, healthy and safe.

Dr. Priya Abraham

On January 30, 2020, the first case of Novel Coronavirus was confirmed in India by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) based in Pune. It is affiliated to the nation’s apex health research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and initially, was the only centre that was testing samples for Covid-19.

Leading the charge of this organisation at this crucial juncture is its director, Dr. Priya Abraham. Not only did she make a momentous medical breakthrough by isolating the deadly Coronavirus, but she, along with her team, has also been the guiding force of all the government and private labs that are testing the Coronavirus samples.

The NIV has succeeded in reducing the testing time of Covid-19 samples to just four hours a sample from 12-14 hours, a significant feat that will increase the number of testing.

Sanghamitra Pati and Jyotirmayi Turuk

As the number of cases spike in different states, the women of Odisha – nurses, Anganwadi workers, healthcare workers and sanitation workers – have set an example of leading the battle against the pandemic.

The foremost medical institutes that are responsible for COVID-19 testing in the state are also being led by women. Scientist Sanghamitra Pati is heading the Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), the key COVID-19 testing centre at Bhubaneswar, which is a regional institution of ICMR. Pati, together with her team scientist Jyotirmayee Turuk, is involved in aggressive testing to detect as many cases as possible.

Minal Dhakave Bhosale

On March 26, Mylabs Discovery, a molecular biology firm based in Pune, successfully delivered its first batch of the first-ever Made in India Coronavirus testing kit. This kit gave results in just two-and-a-half hours as compared to the imported ones, which take six-seven hours for the same. Moreover, the Mylabs testing kit was priced at INR 1,200, which is a quarter of the cost of the imported testing kits.

This breakthrough was made possible because of the relentless efforts of Mylab’s research and development chief, Minal Dhakave Bhosale. Notably, she delivered the working kit for evaluation by NIV on March 18, just a day before delivering her daughter.

Dr. Renu Swarup

In the quest for the treatment of the deadly infection, researchers are racing against time to find an antidote of Coronavirus. Dr. Renu Swarup, secretary, department of biotechnology under the science ministry, is one of them. She is also the chairperson of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), which serves as a bridge between research laboratories and industry.

Dr. Nivedita Gupta

Virologist, Dr Nivedita Gupta, who is a senior scientist at ICMR, is currently designing the treatment and testing protocols for the country. She had played a key role in setting up a viral and diagnostic network for ICMR.

These achievements have put women front and centre in the medical arena. There is only one word to aptly describe these women of courage – inspiring.

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