COVID-19 Community Report Episode 26: Speaking with Dr. Koen Van Rompay - Virologist and Humanitarian - June 30, 2020

You can know someone for a while, and still not understand their depth and brilliance, or their contributions to the world.

I had the pleasure today of interviewing Dr. Koen Van Rompay, whom I first met many years ago when he attended a meeting of Soroptimist International of Davis to talk about his work with Sahaya International. Over time I learned about his groundbreaking work helping to develop and test the anti-viral drug Tenofovir, used in the prevention and treatment of  HIV. He is a virologist at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, with expertise in nonhuman primate models of viral infections, and is currently working toward a vaccine for coronavirus.

Today we chatted about the painstaking process of developing a vaccine, including how long that can take, how mutations in a virus can affect the development process, and how he is collaborating with others towards the goal of a vaccine for COVID-19. It is important to listen to our scientists right now, and my conversation with Dr. Van Rompay underscores the need for science-based approaches to public health crises.

We also spoke about Sahaya International, the Davis-based non-profit he founded that builds awareness and support of healthcare, education, environmental and socio-economic grassroots programs in developing countries. His description of the "network of friends" who support people in other countries, as well as success stories shared, is uplifting, and a validation of both the human spirit and the power of hope. PC: Koen Van Rompay.