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Meet Dr. Nita Patel and her All-Female Team Developing the COVID-19 Vaccine

dr nita patel
2 min read

The current pandemic that’s wrapped itself around the world is COVID-19, a highly contagious infectious disease that originated in Wuhan, China and has infected more than 600,000 people, having claimed more than 100,000 lives in the U.S alone. This disease has spread worldwide, having killed more than 27,000 around the world in countries like China, Italy, Iran. 

To prevent further spreading of the disease, experts are working around the clock to develop a vaccine, include an all-female team from the Novavax Lab in Gaithersburg, Maryland led by Dr. Nita Patel.

Read Related: COVID-19: 6 Ways to Stay Safe and Sane

Dr. Patel serves as the Director for Vaccine Development and Antibody Discovery at Novavax, a clinical-stage biotechnology company that is committed to delivering innovative products to prevent infectious diseases. At the company since 2015, she worked as a Scientist and Research Manager at AstraZeneca for 25 years. Dr. Patel moved to the United States with her husband 32 years ago after her marriage, from Gujarat, India.  

“You know, I’m a woman and that’s encouraging to see that somebody, women, brought the vaccine to the market.”

Her strong interest in science began during her childhood. When she was only five years old, her father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was disabled by the time he was in his mid-thirties; this fueled Dr. Patel’s desire to find a cure for the disease, and she began her career as a scientist in the United States working on the TB vaccine project. Her father was a strong believer in higher education and did everything he could to support her education and encourage her dreams. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Dr. Patel and her team of women scientists have labored trying to develop a vaccine as quickly and effectively as possible. Her lab uses state-of-the-art Recombinant Nanoparticle Technology to make vaccines, using insect cells as protein to make machinery.

Novavax’s President of Research and Development, Dr. Gregory Mark Glenn said that work on the vaccine began on January 10th and hopes to finalize the testing and production of the vaccine in the next 18 months.

“We learn from each other, and science is learning from experiences.” 

Dr. Patel and her team have already developed three possible vaccines. Currently, the vaccine is in the second phase of development, testing on animal subjects. If all goes according to plan, the vaccine should be ready for human testing in the next three months. 

Read Related: Make Quarantine Fun with Activities for Everyone in Your Home

Dr. Patel and her COVID-19 vaccine team are aware of how they’re inspiring young girls interested in science. A study from the Unesco Institute for Statistics has indicated that less than thirty percent of the world’s researchers are women; despite the increasing demand for gender equality in employment, women’s role in science and policymaking is limited. However, should Dr. Patel’s team successfully develop the first COVID-19 vaccine, more women might be encouraged to enter the field of science themselves.

Dr. Patel’s message to women and girls everywhere is, “Science is fun, challenging, and rewarding. Remember, you are contributing towards better medicine which can make a difference in people’s lives…pursue your dreams!”

She hopes if the vaccine is successful, it will encourage more women to become scientists, especially more women of color, to bring more diversity to the field. 

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