We asked female leaders, who will be speaking at our summit in 2021, to share their personal thoughts on the challenges, opportunities and new perspectives they have personally encountered as they navigate through the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This special series should inspire and encourage you to continue to manage the crisis in the best possible way. This time we have a view from the perspective of science for you. Enjoy the article by Prof Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff and her personal adaptation to the pandemic.
Helga started her career as Scientific and Executive Director of an academic institution, the Chemotherapeutical Research Institute Georg-Speyer-Haus in Germany with a focus on cancer research and HIV. In 1994, she joined Bayer as Head of Virological Research and later as SVP, heading Bayer´s whole Infectious Disease Discovery.
In 2006 she founded the company AiCuris and lead it as CEO from 2006 until 2015. AiCuris Anti-Infective Cures GmbH is a German Biopharma company dedicated to the research and development of drugs against infectious diseases. Presently, Helga is the Chair of AiCuris´Advisory Boad, a member of the Board of Partners of E. Merck KG and Chair of Merck´s Research Council as well as a member of the Supervisory Board of Merck KGaA and 4SC AG. She also serves in the Scientific Panel on Health (SPH) for the Framework Program Horizon 2020 of the EU. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Germany, Leopoldina.
Scientifically speaking, the pandemic does not arrive unexpectedly in one’s own country, so is it easy to deal with it?
Being a virologist and seeing China´s harsh shut down in Wuhan in January, it was clear to me that we would be facing a pandemic and that the world had a significant time ahead of it to overcome this crisis. It was therefore relatively easy to adapt to the first lock down and now to the „lockdown light“ in Germany. Both were and are a necessity, I do not feel uncertainty.
How has the Covid-19 crisis affected your life and work so far and how have you adapted to the new situation?
Life and work changed: No more travel and home office. Home office was easy to adapt to due to the various tools available for video-conferences and many other digital processes. One learning was that as travels were cancelled, there was a tendency to use the free time for more video-conferences and to pile up more work than in the past – a development to be watched closely! Another learning was that many meetings can well be replaced by videoconferences and that travel can be reduced significantly without hurting communication.
Friends, family and sports helped to keep my head above the water and, whenever possible, opportunities to get out (e.g. to the Salzburg Festival in summer – a great experience!).
What kind of outlook do you give us?
Like other pandemics (e.g. HIV/AIDS at the end of the last century) this one will be overcome by science. The first positive results for vaccines and therapies make me cautiously hopeful and this also helps to get through the present situation.