Divya Chadha Manek, born and schooled in Kolkata, has been honoured with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for the crucial role she played in coordinating the clinical trials of multiple Covid-19 vaccines, including Oxford AstraZeneca, Novovax and Janssen, in the UK that led to its swift rollout.
“This honour is a recognition of everyone involved in the success of UK vaccine research, including half-amillion people who had signed up to the vaccine research registry and tens of thousands who took part in the trials,” said Manek.
Born to a Bengali mother, Ruma Saha, and a Punjabi father, Narinder Kumar Chadha, Manek was into sports at school and had represented Bengal at the national level in both swimming and rowing. She had almost been barred from the Class XII board exam for poor attendance as she was away for four months training in Dusseldorf, Germany. It was only when the sports ministry spoke to the school that she was allowed to sit for the ISC exams.
“At 18, I left for the UK on a rowing scholarship to Royal Halloway, University of London. The psychology course that I studied was secondary. It was only when I won an academic scholarship from University of Birmingham and pursued clinical research in postgraduation that I got interested in the subject,” she said.
Currently, she is the director of business development and marketing at Britain’s National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network. She played a key role in supporting companies to bring vaccine trials to the UK, generate the data required for marketing authorisation and help with the development of the vaccine research registry.
Even as the first lot of vaccines were being administered in the UK, she visited Kolkata to be with her parents. Her father, who had been her inspiration, died of a heart attack during the visit. “When I left India for the UK, my father gave me a flight ticket and £500, and told me: ‘Be good, do good and do something amazing that you get to meet the queen’. When they announced my name on the OBE list, my father’s words rang in my ears. It now truly feels like I have done something good. Maybe I will get to meet the queen because we have done something amazing,” she said. .
Source: Times of India