Jul 20, 2020
Growing up on a mountain range in Austria, Florian Krammer was immersed in nature from a very young age. His interest in plants and animals led him to science, and ultimately to university where he would study food science and biotechnology. His interest in food fermentation soon morphed into the pursuit of a PhD in a laboratory working on the influenza virus and flu vaccines. From there, Florian's path became clear... he wanted to work in a world-class flu lab and landed at Mount Sanai in New York City. Just 3 years later, he founded The Krammer Laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sanai to study RNA viruses and continue his quest for a universal flu vaccine.
Like many of us, Florian's trajectory changed in early 2020 as the world descended into a pandemic. The Krammer Laboratory was refocused exclusively on SARS-CoV-2 to help their hospitals do battle in what would soon become a global hotspot for the outbreak. This made the Krammer Laboratory an early leader in understanding the virus and they have sent their reagents to some 250 labs around the globe.
In addition to the challenge of understanding SARS-CoV-2 itself, Prof. Krammer and his team have had to deal with social and societal fallout from the pandemic along the way. First, there's the challenge of keeping the team safe and productive while fending off the very real risk of burnout that comes with months of long hours in a high-pressure, high-stakes environment. Then there are the communication challenges of keeping the public informed without causing panic and trying to work-around the vast amounts of misinformation that can easily gain steam in our connected world. The situation is endlessly challenging, and it requires a broad set of skills to navigate successfully.
In this interview, Prof. Krammer shares what he's learned along the way, and offers an optimistic view of the vaccine candidates that could, in time, lead us out of the pandemic. That, like the rest of the story so far, is fraught with challenges and will require a massive world-wide collaboration around manufacturing, distribution, and other logistical issues.
As we like to say at TIPS, one person can make a difference and everyone should try. Prof. Florian Krammer's path has put him in a position to make a real difference during one of the most trying times in modern history.
Links and Notes