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Women Scientists Who Are At The Forefront Of Fighting COVID-19 — And How You Can Join The Fight

Photo: Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock
Women scientists

I’m sure we’re all tired of hearing about COVID-19, especially when it personally affects us or our loved ones.

And with the omicron variant now looming on the horizon it sounds, yet again, like it might get worse before it gets better.

However, today I might have some hopeful news for you.

Because we’ve recently learned about the Rise Above COVID movement and the ACTIV-2 clinical trials, which have been conducting imperative research nationwide to help find the best new treatments for COVID.

Rise Above COVID, exists to show everyone that someone with COVID can help stop the virus by doing more than just staying home.

I had never heard of these trials until now, but I had the pleasure of chatting with two of the leading scientists on the project: Dr. Judith Currier and Dr. Katya Corado — two inspiring women who told me all about the trials and their careers in research and medicine that brought them here.

What is ACTIV-2?

According to these two scientists, Dr. Judith Currier and Dr. Katya Corado, these trials are aimed to discover and test treatments that could aid a quick recovery from COVID-19 and keep more people out of the hospital.

While you might just be hearing about it now, these trials aren’t brand new. When COVID-19 first hit, the urgency of the pandemic demanded safe and effective treatment. 

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ACTIV-2 was one of the clinical trials that rose to the occasion.

While clinical trials usually only study one treatment, ACTIV-2 tests a multitude of safe, established treatments so that they are able to thoroughly check more options, while not wasting precious time.

Now, however, these clinical trials know some proven effective treatments and are on the hunt to find even better ones based on their ever-growing research.

It is clear that ACTIV-2 continues to make progress with COVID treatments.

According to Dr. Currier, “In ACTIV-2 we have been testing combinations of monoclonal antibodies over the past year. One of those made by Brii Biosciences was shown to be effective in preventing hospitalization and is being submitted to the FDA.”

Who are the women making ACTIV-2 possible?

While there are many other scientists involved in ACTIV-2 as well, women have played a crucial role in the conception and continuatiuon of this trial, overcoming setbacks and disadvantages in the medical field.

“Like many people who pursue a research career, I faced setbacks and disappointments when working to obtain independent funding and when trying to move research ideas forward," said Dr. Currier.

On top of her work with Rise Above COVID, Dr. Currier is ACTG Chair, Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Research and Education Center (CARE) in the Department of Medicine at UCLA. 

Dr. Judith Currier

"At every stage of my career, I benefitted from mentorship from other women scientists and from my male colleagues who encouraged me to persist."

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And this emphasis in finding an inspiring mentor is reflected in Dr. Corado’s statements as well, who said, “I have found mentors. I have found almost cheerleaders, that when you are feeling like you don’t belong and when you are feeling like, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe this next step is not for me,’ I have been surrounded by people who cheer me on and who believe in me sometimes a little bit more than I believe in myself.”

Dr. Corado has had an accomplished career as an Infectious Disease Researcher at the Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Dr. Katya Corado

She goes on to say, “It can be a bit challenging, and doing it by yourself is not the way to do it. You really have to surround yourself with a community of people and loved ones that really cheer you on.”

It is refreshing to hear a relatable, yet wise, perspectives from those we entrust with our health across the country.

Regardless of their extensive journeys in medicine that equipped them to conduct these trials, their obstacles reflect our own in our own careers.

It is clear to me that the women leading the trials are seeing themselves and their participants from a very understanding perspective, and it shows in the way they run their trials.

They strive to use safe medications and prove their effectiveness in all communities, especially those particularly vulnerable to the disease and medical complications.

So, if you’re at home with COVID-19, you could help them now, get at-home treatment, and further COVID research all at once.

Why should women help with COVID research?

Participating in their clinical trial, if you can, will help find preventative treatments to help people suffering from COVID-19 globally. If that isn’t reason enough, ACTIV-2 greatly encourages and needs widespread participation of women.

Dr. Currier emphasized that, so far, female involvement in COVID-19 trials has been great, about 50 percent.

And it is imperative we keep up that pace.

Because, whether we acknowledge it or not, even COVID-19 is a feminist issue.

As Dr. Corado said to me, “Women are the ones who have had to give up their careers or job to stay at home and take care of either elderly parents or children, when compared to their male counterparts.”

Women, unfortunately, can also be particularly vulnerable to COVID if they are pregnant.

Due to their high risk of developing complications, Dr. Corado said, “We need really great data for pregnant women,” emphasizing that, “We need to do the most to get them to be safe and their babies to be safe.”

How can you get involved?

Anyone can get involved by going on the Rise Above COVID website, and inform themselves of their options if they become diagnosed with COVID.

And if you have recently been diagnosed with COVID, but you are not ill enough to require hospitalization, you can (and should!) join the ACTIV-2 study on the website to help find treatments that could really help those suffering from COVID-19.

Due to the time sensitive nature of the medical trials — as they need to know that a person still has COVID when they are treated — the scientists emphasized that any requests to participate should be responded to within a day, and that there are facilities across the country to help you.

The goal, after all, is to make it as easy for COVID-19 patients to help as possible.

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Amanda Hartmann is a writer and editorial intern at YourTango who writes on news and entertainment.

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