Women’s History Month: Efforts by Women Scientists

March is Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8, and during October in Canada, corresponding with the celebration of Persons Day on October 18.[1]

The commemoration began in 1978 as “Women’s History Week” in Sonoma County, California, and was championed by Gerda Lerner and the National Women’s History Alliance to be recognized as a national week (1980) and then month (1987) in the United States, spreading internationally after that.[2][3]   Great Falls Rising will be sharing stories and other articles about women and their contributions to our global society. If you have any stories, please send them to jenningsg92@gmail.com.

Our first contribution is from Helena Lovick, a PhD scientist who lives in Great Falls:

The news has been full of vaccine progress and the success to-date of vaccinations to reduce hospitalization rates in people over the age of 70 (Ref. 1). It seems timely to discuss the contribution of women scientists to these amazing scientific breakthroughs.

The new coronavirus vaccines have been accelerated through the FDA by Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA)s (Ref. 2). The FDA didn’t always have the regulatory oversight powers that it has today. But the efforts of the FDA reviewer Dr. Frances Kelsey led the US to withhold approval of thalidomide for morning sickness and prevented countless fetal deaths and birth defects (Ref. 3). The impact of Dr. Kelsey’s efforts helped empower more pharmaceutical oversight for the agency.

The crucial work of Rosalind Franklin to unravel the structure of DNA (Ref. 4) lead to our understanding of messenger RNA. Advancements have allowed for the development of successful mRNA vaccines. Today, Dr. Katalin Karikó’s efforts to develop mRNA technology in vaccines is the basic scientific foundation of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines (Ref. 5). The beauty of the mRNA technology is its adaptability. In the future we will be able to adjust vaccines more readily to combat other viruses (Ref. 6).

The efforts of women scientists around the world are helping us beat back the pandemic (Ref. 7).

Happy Women’s History Month!


References

1. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/covid-vaccines-protection-uk/2021/02/22/216b1dac-751a-11eb-9489-8f7dacd51e75_story.html%3foutputType=amp

2. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines/emergency-use-authorization-vaccines-explained#:~:text=An%20Emergency%20Use%20Authorization%20(,COVID-19%20pandemic.

3. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/biological-sciences-articles/courageous-physician-scientist-saved-the-us-from-a-birth-defects-catastroph

4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kionasmith/2018/04/16/rosalind-franklin-died-60-years-ago-today-without-the-nobel-prize-she-deserved/?sh=3fb2cf8b79e7

5.https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/12/16/us/katalin-kariko-covid-19-vaccine-scientist-trnd/index.html

6. https://wap.business-standard.com/article-amp/current-affairs/covid-19-women-take-the-lead-in-male-dominated-vaccine-development-field-120120400152_1.html

7. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/2/compilation-women-in-science-leading-during-the-pandemic



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