A parasitologist passionate about rare disease research, Shyama’s research has enabled scientific collaborations around the world. Get the full story.
“I’m a woman of science,” said Shyama Ghosh, Senior Science Editor at Clarivate. “I come from a family of women of science,” she adds, proudly noting that her daughter is a newly-minted chemistry Ph.D.
The Antwerp, Belgium-based Ghosh is a past President of the Belgian Society of Parasitology whose field research on malaria, schistosomiasis and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections enabled scientific collaborations across Africa, India, Europe and the United States.
“Looking into host-pathogen interactions is my niche,” she said. “It’s what I love to do. The thing is, though, I am a human parasitologist, and in Belgium, parasitic infection of humans doesn’t happen very much!”
A passion for rare disease research, a once-in-a-century public health crisis
Her expertise in parasitic infections, particularly malaria, does however lend itself to the study of COVID-19. Over the summer of 2020, Ghosh, who helps maintain the Incidence and Prevalence Database, a Cortellis™ solution, was enlisted to help healthcare companies developing solutions for COVID-19 understand the emerging disease landscape. The global team of epidemiologists distributed across India (Mudasir Kayyum Khan), Europe (Oliver Blandy, Alexandre Vo Dupuy) and the U.S. (Alex Li, Julie Davis, Sunali Goonesekera), underwent an intensive three-day training before launching a three-month, round-the-clock sprint of data curation.
“The limiting factor of this collaboration was that we had very little time,” she says. “Transmission had moved from Mainland China to Europe and the U.S. Italy was being very badly hit. At this point, we did not know the whole clinical profile. Everything was pretty new, and there were a lot of hypotheses out there, a lot of things up in the air, but we were actually looking at the data and helping to clarify things.”
Ghosh and her colleagues were tasked with taming a flood of incoming data on COVID-19, coding data from medical journals and other publications and processing it into a medical dashboard that could be used by teams developing vaccines and treatments for the disease.
“Everything was pretty new, and there were a lot of hypotheses out there. We were actually looking at the data and helping to clarify things.”
Studying the needs of vulnerable patient populations
“We gave a lot of focus to immunocompromised persons,” said Ghosh, “as well as pregnant women and older people. Special populations of interest included patients with autoimmune diseases/co-infected with other viruses, and those with asthma or COPD. We showed COVID-19 transmission rates from Asia to Europe and the U.S., and morbidity (severity) and mortality figures across different geographies. From an epidemiological point of view, we delineated the effects of age, race and ethnicity on infection rate, COVID-19 presenting symptoms, and the role of biomarkers. Other patient journey variables included COVID-19 complications by organ group, treatment paradigms, adverse events, MedTech, as well as time to recovery. We gave them a lot of data to make informed choices on how to move forward.”
Actionable insights to advance the knowledge frontier and improve human welfare
The database they built allowed vaccine manufacturers to turn a tremendous volume of information into precise, actionable insights that helped them make informed decisions on how to move the vaccine forward. In November, Ghosh’s team received a thank you for their efforts from the CEO of the client company.
For Shyama, contributing to a critical medical solution was gratifying, but so was the collaboration and trust built among her team as they worked on this once-in-a-lifetime project. “It’s the value system that sets Clarivate apart,” she said of her 10 years at the company. “It’s not just about aiming for greatness, though we all try to do that. It is also about the collaboration and the trust. And I find I just have a voice here.”
United by a common cause, a global team of Clarivate experts partnered with pharmaceutical companies to fight COVID-19. The reward for their ingenuity: Life-saving vaccines brought to market in record time. Get the full story.