July 25, 2021

five women whose voices matter

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists, medical professionals, and officials have been on the front line to better understand the virus and try to contain its expansion. Among them, women have emerged and their work recognized in different registers. Here are five examples.

  • Katalin Kariko, biochemist, vice president of BioNTech

Some of her competitors dispute it, most readily admit it: at 66, Katalin Kariko is the face of messenger RNA, this molecule at the base of the most effective vaccines against Covid-19. As soon as she arrived in the United States from her native Hungary, in 1985, she became convinced that this genetic information medium could revolutionize medicine. She then dreams of curing cancer. For thirty years, she will search, often stumble, to the point of being almost expelled from the University of Pennsylvania. Today, he is promised the Nobel. Because, from 2005, it laid the first bricks of the building which will lead to this revolutionary vaccine. Recruited in 2014 by the company BioNTech as vice-president, she continued the adventure in the health and industrial fields. Allied to the American giant Pfizer, the German start-up has won the global competition. With Katalin Kariko, always in the front row.

Read the editorial of “World”: Messenger RNA: the lesson of freedom from Katalin Kariko
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, before a meeting at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, on May 19, 2021.

His appointment did not go unnoticed. The first woman and the first African to head the World Trade Organization (WTO), in March 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is also one of the last hopes to reform an organization weakened by the decline of multilateralism. The new leader, with dual American and Nigerian nationality, is well acquainted with the intricacies of international institutions. She was the Managing Director of the World Bank and Nigeria’s finance minister on two occasions. It now has the opportunity to resuscitate the WTO by showing its usefulness in the fight against the current Covid-19 pandemic. The WTO has a role to play in increasing the production of vaccines, by facilitating the free trade of their components and by relaxing intellectual property rules. “My priority is to fight against vaccine nationalism”, said Mme Okonjo-Iweala immediately after his appointment.

  • Vittoria Colizza, research director at Inserm and specialist in infectious disease modeling

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