AS A principal investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group, Maheshi Ramaswamy leads adult clinical vaccine trials.
Since January 2020, her work assumed greater significance as the scientific community embarked upon a mission to find a vaccine to the novel coronavirus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
However, when she received the news that the ChAdOx1 nCoV-2019, or the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in popular parlance, was found to be effective on November 22, it was her three children, aged 10, 13 and 15, who broke into an impromptu celebration.
“I wish I could say I did something crazy, like opening a bottle of champagne, but I was just so exhausted that I went to bed,” she has said. “But my kids were so excited that they did a little dance in the kitchen.”
The vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, is seen as a game changer as it is far cheaper and easier to administer when compared to the two other vaccines – of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – approved for use in the UK as of January 2021.
As a consultant physician at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, she witnessed the devastating effects of the virus while working on the wards and it was “pretty scary”, motivating her to work on the vaccine.
“At that stage we didn’t know how to treat the disease. It was a new disease for all of us and we were feeling so helpless, but that was a huge motivation for me to help with a vaccine to stop people from getting sick,” she has said.
The fact that the research team behind the Oxford vaccine has been dominated by women has also put the spotlight on women in science.
Ramaswamy, who also acts as the lead