- Female scientists are changing the game when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
- From reducing mortality by 50% to studying virus replication, they may be able to end the pandemic.
- For International Women’s Day, here are 11 women at the forefront of COVID-19 response.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
A number of women are at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both at a Spanish and global level – from the first female president of the Spanish National Research Council to a researcher whose work in AI could reduce COVID-19 mortality by 50%.
In 2017, women occupied just 24% of STEM jobs.
A study of 194 countries released last year suggested women-led countries handled the pandemic better than those led by men – and they’ve also played key roles in revolutionizing the pandemic response.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, here are 11 Spanish women who could hold the key to tackling COVID-19.
Spanish researcher Lorena Sánchez-Felipe is working at the Rega Institute in Leuven, Belgium, to develop a vaccine that could change the course of the pandemic.
Her research group is creating a vaccine based on the yellow fever vaccine which carries a coronavirus antigen to train the immune system to recognize it. Sánchez-Felipe’s vaccine would protect people against both yellow fever and COVID-19.
She believes her vaccine could be especially vital in countries where yellow fever is still a problem and will also protect against COVID-19 in the long-term.
“We expect long-term immunity, given previous results we’ve seen with this type of vaccine,” Sánchez-Felipe told Business Insider España.
Sola is working on developing a COVID-19 vaccine in Spain
Senior scientist and co-director of the coronavirus laboratory at the National Center for Biotechnology at the Spanish National Research Council, Isabel Sola, has spent years researching the coronavirus family of infections.
Sola is now working to develop a vaccine based on a smallpox virus and is created using a virus that has been genetically modified to retain its reproduction properties. It thus goes from cell to cell with a controlled dose acting as a vector.
“From our experience with similar coronaviruses, this vaccine is 100% effective,” Sola told Business Insider España.
Del Val is a virologist and coordinates the Global Health platform
Spanish National Research Council virologist Margarita del Val has been one of the most visible faces of the pandemic response in Spain.
The expert coordinates the 150 teams brought together by the council on a large multidisciplinary research platform called “Global Health.”
Among the tasks carried out by the platform are the improvement of COVID-19 diagnostic systems, and they have pioneered a system for testing wastewater to identify whether the virus is spreading in a community.
Del Val has also been carrying out educational work during the pandemic and has warned of the need to be cautious about future possible waves and other pandemics.
Fernández-Sesma researches immune responses to COVID-19
Ana Fernández-Sesma directs a laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York which studies how certain types of viruses modulate our immune system, with a special focus on dengue.
The research she conducts on dengue places her among the five best-funded researchers by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States.
Fernández-Sesma told Business Insider España she aims to understand “what the virus does to evade barriers in a host and how the host protects itself.” Uncovering this could change the pandemic response, as our immune response to the virus has still not been fully understood.
She has also joined a group of researchers evaluating the immune system’s response to the virus in an effort to understand how it differs among patients.
Oliver is an AI expert working on predicting the evolution of the pandemic
Nuria Oliver has established herself as one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence experts. In her capacity as authority-appointed high commissioner for AI in Valencia.
Oliver works with a research group that tries to communicate the real data of the pandemic to those in charge of making decisions.
The group tries to predict the behavior of the virus using different potential scenarios, answering key questions like how many people will be infected and modeling human mobility.
During the 2009 influenza pandemic in Mexico, Oliver analyzed aggregate data from cell phone networks to investigate the effectiveness of government measures.
She also spearheaded a macro-survey to assess the impact of the measures adopted during lockdown that has warned of the increased socialization in risky environments.
Marco leads a project that focuses on preparing for subsequent waves
Spanish National Research Council professor Pilar Marco is the head of Nanobiotechnology for Diagnostics (Nb4D). The tool could revolutionize the pandemic response.
Marco leads a team researching devices that can simultaneously and rapidly detect several biomarkers of COVID-19 infection.
These quick detection diagnostic systems could prepare the world better for any future outbreaks of COVID-19.
Rodríguez is improving diagnoses and treatments through AI at IBM
Astrophysics and cosmology specialist María Rodriguez uses her knowledge of quantitative technical tools to help doctors provide better diagnoses and suggest individual treatments.
The computational biologist works with IBM applying artificial intelligence to the healthcare sector, focusing on integrating high-throughput molecular datasets to build comprehensive models of disease.
This sector could transform the treatment of cancer and immune and degenerative diseases, Rodriguez told Business Insider España.
García Vidal is working on an AI solution that could cut mortality in COVID-19 patients by 50%
Head of the Covid Digital Control Center at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, Dr. Carolina García Vidal, is leading one of the 207 projects named by the European Institute of Innovation as providing a better response to the healthcare crisis.
García Vidal’s initiative uses artificial intelligence to monitor the evolution of patient systems, anticipating the worsening of the disease.
Her technique could reduce patient mortality rates by 50% according to findings published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Silleras became a developer to fight the pandemic
Rocío Silleras was one of 40 students selected for the final part of Samsung’s DesarrollAdoras course, focused on artificial intelligence and big data.
After the program, Silleras joined the multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Joaquín López Herraiz, from the Universidad Computense de Madrid.
The team was tackling the development of a tool to identify infectious diseases.
Their project, which won the UNESCO hackathon #CodeTheCurve, studies X-rays with artificial intelligence to detect COVID-19.
Bertrán de Lis is a data scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Centers for Civic Impact
Data scientist Sara Bertrán de Lis works at the John Hopkins University Civic Impact Center and previously worked as a trainee at the European Space Agency.
Rosa Menéndez is the first female president of the Spanish National Research Council
In 2017, Rosa Menéndez became the first female president in the 80-year history of the Spanish National Research Council.
An organic chemistry graduate from the University of Oviedo, Menéndez is confident that the council will produce the first Spanish vaccine to fight COVID-19, with reports suggesting it could be ready by the end of 2022.