Bangladeshi Vaccine Scientist Cited For Saving Millions
Dr. Firdausi Qadri, who is one of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay awardees, played a key role in the development of a more affordable oral cholera vaccine and the typhoid conjugate vaccine in Bangladesh.
Her breakthroughs in the field of vaccines and science while also breaking gender norms and overcoming institutional limitations in Bangladesh earned Dr. Firdausi Qadri a Ramon Mag-saysay Award this year.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation recognized the 70-year-old Qadri for her passion and life-long devotion to the scientific profession and her vision of building the human and physical infrastructure that will benefit the coming generation of Bangladeshi scientists, especially the women scientists.
She is also recognized for her “untiring contributions to vaccine development, advanced biotechnological therapeutics and critical research that has been saving millions of precious lives.”
Qadri is known for her work in the fight against cholera and typhoid, both major diseases in Bangladesh. She played a key role in the development of a more affordable oral cholera vaccine (OCV) and the typhoid conjugate vaccine (Vi-TCV).
During a virtual briefing with reporters, she emphasized the importance of building human and technical infrastructure and research in health science, a major challenge that she encountered when she was starting out as a scientist.
She now leads the Institute for Developing Science and Health Initiatives, which conducts biomedical research, testing and training and which is considered a hub of scientific activity in Bangladesh.
Qadri is also paving the way for the next generation of Bangladeshi scientists by giving them the means and infrastructure to develop new technologies and take part in knowledge transfers.
“I want it to be bigger in the coming years and self-supporting in the future, less dependent on international funding. It should carry out research at the highest level and have a good number of scientists who will carry out this work. I am looking at that in the future,” she said.
During the interview, she noted the institutional challenges that lead to inequality in technology advancements, especially when comparing the East and West.
There are many scientists who are up to the job, she said, but there are still limitations for opportunity and support in terms of equipment, funding and resources that are needed in many Eastern countries.
But despite these limitations, Qadri was able to show that not only can she make her mark in advancing technologies in science in Bangladesh, but also do so while tending to her family life as a mother and wife.
While all women face challenges in Bangladesh, a still very traditional country that places emphasis on family life, she noted that there were challenges on how to get things outside of the norm for a woman scientist like her.
From working long hours and tending to three children, noting that her late husband gave her a lot of support, she was determined to show that women can do both.
Qadri recalled that she got a call from the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation while in an intensive care unit.
The septuagenarian doctor offers her award, which is Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, to her family, her team and her home country.