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Meet Nita Patel, An American-Indian Scientist Who is Breaking Ground in Vaccinology

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There has been a positive trend of rise in women in the field of vaccinology. Vaccine development, which was earlier a male-dominated field is witnessing an increase in productive and valuable contribution by female scientists. Moreover, we have come across many women at the forefront of developing the COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

Patel, who hails from Gujarat, in 2020 led an all-women team at Novavax Lab working round the clock to develop the vaccine for the virus.

Who Is Nita Patel?

  1. Dr. Nita Patel serves as the senior director for Vaccine Development and Antibody Discovery at Novavax. Novavax is a clinical-stage biotechnology company, committed to ‘deliver innovative products to prevent infectious diseases.
  2. Before joining the company in 2015, she worked as a scientist and research manager at AstraZeneca for a long span of 25 years.
  3. She was born and raised in a small farming village Sojitra, Gujarat. She was 4 years old when her family went through extreme financial hardships after her father almost died from tuberculosis.
  4. Although he survived, he couldn’t work again as he was rendered physically disabled. Hencforth, he motivated his daughter to become a doctor and find a cure for the deadly infectious disease.
  5. Her father, in spite of his disability and financial strain, encouraged Nita’s dreams and supported her education all throughout.
  6. Nita was a keen science enthusiast and her own experience strengthened her resolve to work in the field of science and technology. She was resolute to find an efficacious cure for tuberculosis. Furthermore, she won various government scholarships which propelled her education. She pursued two master’s degrees, one in India and another in the United States, in applied microbiology and biotechnology respectively.nita patel scientists behind vaccines
  7. Nita married a U.S biochemist and then moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland and started looking for jobs there. Initially, she worked in a small company, MedImmune that offered her less than others — but she got to work on her dream project on TB.
  8. However, she had to go through failure at first. A MedImmune Lyme disease vaccine she worked on failed in its first clinical trial. Then another therapy also failed against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and Food and Drug Administration eventually rejected the therapy.
  9. Nevertheless, it didn’t demotivate the talented scientist and she moved to Novavax in 2015. She is presently working tirelessly for the COVID-19 vaccine in the firm. Her all-female led team of scientists have based on innovative and unique ideas. The vaccine is still in its final trial stage, but the word is out reportedly that it is promising.
  10. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, she often worked for 18 hours a day. When asked about how she managed the hectic schedule, she confidently said, “People ask me if I’m tired, I don’t feel tired. my day just doesn’t end. And it’s the same with everyone else here. To me, nothing is impossible. So, having that mindset, nothing stresses me out, being honest.”
  11. She has impressed all her colleagues and bosses with her efforts and expertise. The chief scientist and her boss Gale Smith called Nita ‘genius and invaluable’. Another scientist from her team, Sonia Maciejewski said, “She has a very strong work ethic, yet somehow doesn’t put that sort of pressure or stress on us.” She further added that Patel didn’t see the firm as competing with others, but rather working together for a problem that needs a solution.

Also Read: Meet 10 Female Scientists Instrumental In Developing COVID-19 Vaccines Around the World

 

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Meet Nita Patel, An American-Indian Scientist Who is Breaking Ground in Vaccinology
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