Female scientists set coronavirus research on course

March 09, 2021 | 11:12
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In May last year, amidst the complicated and unpredictable coronavirus pandemic situation, nine female scientists from the Influenza Laboratory of the Virus Department under the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) were honoured with the Kovalevskaia Award for the successful isolation of the new strain of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, making Vietnam one of the first four countries to successfully do so.
1534 p25 female scientists set coronavirus research on course
Vietnam Women’s Union last week marked 35 years since establishment of the Kovalevskaia Award, Photo: Phuong Hoa

Lead by Associate Prof. Le Thi Quynh Mai, the successful team includes Dr. Hoang Vu Mai Phuong, Associate Prof. Nguyen Le Khanh Hang, MSc. Le Thi Thanh, MSc. Ung Thi Hong Trang, MSc. Nguyen Phuong Anh, MSc. Tran Thi Thu Huong, BSc. Pham Thi Hien, and BSc. Hoang Thu Huong.

According to Mai, the team isolated the virus to gain full information about it, then compare it with the virus strains detected in China and Vietnam to identify variations.

Their success facilitated the production of rapid test kits while improving the ability to test thousands of specimens every day if needed. At the same time, it is a key foundation for researching therapies, developing specific diagnostic products, and producing vaccines.

Previously, the laboratory was the first unit to collect, isolate, and identify the causes of SARS and avian influenza A/H5N1 virus in Vietnam in 2003.

The laboratory under the NIHE is a member of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, regularly updating monthly influenza virological data to the World Health Organization’s FluNet network, as well as sharing representative strains of seasonal flu from Vietnam annually (50 strains a year) with standard research centres to select components for making influenza vaccines.

With these great contributions, the members of the laboratory were honoured with the Kovalevskaia Award, which was also bestowed upon the laboratory back in 1998. It was the first national award for female scientists and is a prestigious annual award highlighting the achievements of female scientists.

Mai said that up to 70 per cent of the staff at the NIHE are female, who make up nine of the 12 employees at the InfluenzaLaboratory.

“I hope that the next generation of scientists will maintain the institute’s traditions in scientific research and that more research projects will be recognised by the scientific community and society in general,” Mai said.

The latest event surrounding the Kovalevskaia Award took place in Hanoi just last Friday, as the Vietnam Women’s Union marked 35 years of the award’s existence.

This year’s awardees include a group of female scientists from the Institute of Natural Products, the Institute of Chemistry, and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.

Upon collecting her award, Professor. Dr. Truong Thanh Huong of Hanoi Medical University said, “This award has encouraged young doctors, especially clinical doctors, to apply academic knowledge in practice. Not only in treatment, but also in seeking better preventive measures. The award has helped increase people’s trust in doctors during the process of diagnosis and treatment.”

Chairwoman of the Kovalevskaia Award Committee Nguyen Thi Doan and Chairwoman of the Vietnam Women’s Union Ha Thi Nga took part in the event with this year’s awardees.

The prestigious annual prize, named after the great Russian female mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaia, is awarded to female academics with excellent achievements in the sciences or arts and humanities.

The Vietnamese version of the Kovalevskaia awards were first established in 1985.

By Ha Anh

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