Women of the Pandemic: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw reveals her experience, learnings from the crisis
The last one year under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an eventful one for me both on the personal and professional front.
On the personal front, I was diagnosed with the coronavirus and subsequently recovered from it. Thankfully, my experience was mild and uneventful. Contracting COVID-19 helped me look at the disease from a scientific point of view. I closely and regularly monitored my temperature, cytokine levels, oxygen saturation levels and various other parameters.
A four decade-long career spent helming a biopharmaceutical company has led me to have a deep respect for the scientific process. My personal experience with COVID-19 strengthened my belief that science ultimately moves us toward a clearer understanding of the world and how to thrive in it.
After I recovered I widely shared my experience of tackling the coronavirus as I wanted people to understand that a common sense approach of early testing, proper medication, regular monitoring, enough rest and a positive mental attitude were necessary to win against the virus.
On the professional front, I galvanised the scientific teams at Biocon and Syngene to contribute to the global efforts to tackle COVID-19 through innovative science.
Biocon’s scientists responded to the need of the hour and repurposed our psoriasis biologic drug ALZUMAb™ (Itolizumab) to treat moderate to severe ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) patients hospitalized with COVID-19. ALZUMAb™ was part of the comprehensive portfolio of COVID-19 therapies we were able to quickly offer patients in India suffering mild to moderate coronavirus infections.
Our research services company Syngene stepped up its efforts to fight COVID-19 by redirecting its scientific and technical capabilities in COVID-19 related areas. It set up a COVID-19 testing laboratory at its Bengaluru campus using RT-PCR technology and started screening samples to support local authorities. Recognizing the need to improve first-generation assays and protocols, Syngene also developed the ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay) test kits. Moreover, it started providing a range of services in the areas of diagnostics as well as therapeutic and vaccine R&D aimed at defeating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
At a time when humanity faced one of the biggest threats to its existence, the pandemic was a moment of awakening because it demonstrated that science could help us in defeating COVID-19. I believe the greatest lesson this pandemic has taught everyone, even the sceptics, is that scientific discovery is crucial to human flourishing.