“I would like to dedicate this award to all the women who have silently made this pandemic much less devastating than it could have been”

5 July 2021

The Italian virologist Ilaria Capua received last June 1st the Barcelona Hypatia European Science Prize. This was the second edition of this prize launched by the Barcelona City Council in collaboration with the Academia Europaea-Barcelona Knowledge Hub.

In the words of Lluis Ferrer, jury president, Professor Capua, current Director of the “One Health” Center of Excellence at the University of Florida, was chosen “for her huge contributions to the study of viral zoonoses, for her strong commitment to an open, more ethical science at the service of society in its broadest sense, and for her value as a role model for young women scientists”.

Capua dedicated the award “to all the women who have silently made this pandemic much less devastating than it could have been: taking care of other people, taking enormous additional burden, but also working behind the scenes in laboratories. And to all those women who have contributed to science and have never been recognised.”

The Hypatia Prize, which features a monetary award of 30,000 euros and a commemorative plaque, aims to “spotlight science, as well as to promote, support and enhance the value of excellent research conducted in Europe and of its impact on society”.

Capua came to visit the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) on the morning of the day of the ceremony, where she heard about the park and its centres and met several researchers from the different centres, including Cristina Pujades (Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Pompeu Fabra University (DCEXS-UPF)) who was one of the five members of the jury who selected Prof Capua out of the 19 nominees for the award.

What do you think has been your major contribution to science and society?
I’ve had several transformative ideas; but they were so obvious when you thought of them that it made me wonder, why has nobody thought of it before? (laughs) I guess one thing I am really good at is connecting people around big ideas.

Like One Health?
This concept has actually been going on for a long time. I moved away from research and into politics for 3 years, and when I came back I started thinking about another concept, Circular Health, which has its roots in One Health. The main idea is that we live in a closed system, and everything that happens inside it, affects everything else. The current pandemic is a living example of this.

The Circular Health paradigm means we need to bring health outside of biomedicine, that biomedicine needs to reach out to other disciplines. This pandemic is showing us that physical health needs to be interrelated with mental health, with gender and sex and genetic diversity (we have seen Covid19 has disproportionally affected women and some ethnic minorities), with the environment (if humidity increases, so does the spread of the virus), with our lifestyles…We need to bring all disciplines into a convergence around health.

Read the article here