A Day in the Life of a Scientist in the Coronavirus Vaccine Race
Immunologist and new mother Megan O’Connor works nonstop to help her team move their Covid-19 vaccine forward
Around mid-March, when the novel coronavirus was beginning to make its way through the U.S., Megan O’Connor had just returned to work after six months of maternity leave.
Even in the weeks after she had her baby daughter, O’Connor, an immunologist, hadn’t stopped working. “Science doesn’t stop just because you are on a break,” she says. In spare moments while taking care of her newborn, O’Connor spent time at home analyzing experimental data and writing grants. Maternity leave felt isolating for her, and O’Connor says she was eager to go back to work and reclaim her identity as a scientist.
For the last four years, O’Connor has been a postdoctoral researcher in Deborah Fuller’s lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. Fuller focuses a large part of her research on developing DNA and RNA vaccines. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Fuller’s lab began developing a vaccine for the coronavirus. The platform they use to develop RNA vaccines is adaptable to target a range of viruses. “This allows us to very quickly make a new vaccine for whatever pathogen emerges,” Fuller explains.
The lab is now one of over 140 in the world racing toward creating a coronavirus vaccine, which would allow society to reach a point where people could be at ease if within six feet of a stranger. Fuller and O’Connor are hoping to develop a one-shot vaccine, which would make the recipient immune to Covid-19 for a long period of time. Since March, researchers like O’Connor have been working around the clock to make it happen.
The scientists are focused on testing whether or not their vaccine is safe, and investigating whether it is generating an immune response to the virus that causes Covid-19 that lasts for the long…