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La Jolla immunologist shatters the glass ceiling in fight against COVID-19

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Posted at 4:48 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 23:56:05-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Inside the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, you’ll find Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire.

She’s the President and CEO of the research center

“I love working in the lab. It’s my favorite thing,” she said.

She’s shattering the glass ceiling when it comes to the fight against COVID-19.

“In every generation has had a challenge where people who were in the right place at the right time just needed to solve it. It could’ve been world war II — it could’ve been a need for peace. This year the challenge was COVID and the people who had the ability to do something about it just had to put their lives on hold and make it happen," she said.

She and the team at the institute have extensively studied the virus.

“All of the world's therapeutics were sent here and then code-named and compared side by side to see which one was more effective and why," she explained while demonstrating how a microscope was used as a tool for immunologists.

She said she doesn’t think about making a difference but knows the work is.

“I called an old friend, who is now a CEO of a major pharma and I was telling him about the molecule and he said, ‘you know, it’s the best feeling in the world when something you’ve discovered saves a life," she recalled.

If you ask her if she thinks fighting the virus was her purpose...

“I do feel a really strong calling to make a difference where a difference needs to be made. It is definitely a calling to align minds and to align tools," she said.

She tells the next generation to think bigger.

“Girls rising up in generations— don’t let anyone tell you a girl can’t do this. Girls can do this as well and better,” said Dr. Ollmann Saphire.