We celebrate the "International Day of Women and Girls in Science" and, in these difficult times, we would like to remember some of the women who have contributed and are contributing to the development of vaccines.
Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762): English aristocrat, writer, traveler who introduced inoculation to England. This practice was originally practiced in China and India and was common in Constantinople in the early 18th century. Lady Montagu resided in this city for two years and it is there that she came to know of the variolation and, sure of its effectiveness, decided to inoculate her own son. In 1621, back in England, she also inoculated her daughter, helping to spread this practice in England and Europe.
Isabel Zendal Gómez (1773-): Born in a family of poor in rural Galicia, she became a nurse and rector of the Hospital de la Caridad in A Coruña. In 1803, as part of the medical team of the Royal Vaccine Philanthropic Expedition, led by King Carlos IV's doctor, Francisco Javier Balmis, she undertook a four-year intercontinental trip; action that accredits her as the first nurse on an international public health mission. She took care of the 21 orphans, between 2 and 9 years old, and her own son who brought the first known vaccine, the antidote against smallpox, to America and Asia. It is known that they inoculated more than half a million people. It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest sanitary feats in History.
Isabel Morgan (1911-1996): In the 1940s, a team of scientists from Johns Hopkins University, including Isabel Morgan, demonstrated through experiments in monkeys that immunity could also be achieved from inactive viruses. This drastically reduced the adverse effects of vaccines and opened the door to a new era in their production. Additionally, it was key to Jonas Salk's successful completion of his polio vaccine.
Katalin Karikó: Hungarian biochemist, she has dedicated more than 40 years of her research career to the study of mRNA and its application in vaccines, despite the fact that her requests for funding for these studies were constantly rejected. This technology was licensed by the pharmaceutical companies Moderna and BioNTech and is the basis of their vaccines against COVID-19. Katalin Karikó is currently Senior Vice President of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals.
Kizzmekia Corbett: North American biologist from the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has led the development of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus vaccine in the United States, in collaboration with the biotechnology company Moderna Inc. She has also studied the antibody response humans to viruses, such as dengue, and in recent years has worked on a vaccine for the coronavirus family.
Chen Wei: Chinese epidemiologist, she leads the COVID-19 vaccine project at the Chinese Military Academy of Medical Sciences, she has also worked against Ebola, anthrax and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and is responsible for the country's fight against all types of viruses.
Nita Patel: Indian microbiologist and biotechnologist, she is the Director of Antibody Discovery and Vaccine Development at the laboratories of the American pharmaceutical company Novavax, also leading a research team on another vaccine against COVID-19.
Sarah Gilbert: British vaccinologist has led the development of the COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Oxford, UK, with a team of 300 people. She has been dedicated to the development of vaccines for 15 years. She started by studying malaria, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Hepatitis B and she has succeeded in creating the universal vaccine against seasonal flu.
Isabel Sola: Spanish microbiologist and virologist, she has been studying the coronavirus family for 25 years. At the CSIC's National Center for Biotechnology, she co-leads a team with Luis Enjuanes that is also developing a vaccine to combat the pandemic. She had previously worked on prototype vaccines against SARS and MERS