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Power Women 2020: Dr. Swati Gupta

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Photo by Tessa Marie Images

Vice President and Head of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Scientific Strategy, IAVI

In her 16 years with pharmaceutical giant Merck, Dr. Swati Gupta focused on infectious disease epidemiology. Working across six continents, she aided in developing vaccines for HIV, HPV, influenza and the colon-related C. difficile.

Ebola was also a focus. At Merck, she partnered with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health on large-scale clinical trials. “It’s great that there’s finally a vaccine they can use,” Gupta says of their efforts, which led to a licensed vaccine last year.

Early on, the Villanova epidemiologist developed an interest in public health and infectious diseases while working with HIV patients in a Veterans Affairs hospital. Now with the New York-based IAVI, she and other researchers are studying vaccines and antibodies to prevent and treat HIV, applying their expertise and technologies to vaccines for tuberculosis and the Lassa and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers. They’re also partnering with Merck to develop a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19, with clinical studies scheduled to start later this year. “We’re also thinking about future coronaviruses,” says Gupta. “Are there ways we could use this technology where we could develop it even faster?”