While Zoom interviewing Mei Mei Hu, J.D., co-founder, and CEO of Vaxxinity, a company developing a vaccine for COVID-19 (along with therapeutics for other chronic diseases), something wonderfully innocent happened. Hu was in her home in Telluride, CO. In the background, I could see what appeared to be a collage of family photos. The CEO was in the middle of explaining something when a young voice said cheerfully, “Hi, Mom.” Hu looked up, smiled, and replied in kind. It only took a second, and Hu continued without missing a beat. Perhaps this is how Hu has always been as a parent (i.e., patient). But prior to COVID-19, most of us probably weren’t. We didn’t have to be. Most of the time we were in a corporate office, and what were the odds our child would come strolling through an “important” meeting? Sure, there were always those occasions where you needed to jump on an all-hands conference call (even when on vacation) where you had to say, “Daddy/mommy’s got to be on an important call, so I need you to be quiet for a few minutes please.” COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns that pushed everyone to execute in a virtual world changed all that. Those brave enough to turn on their videos and not use virtual backgrounds let us see a tiny sliver of how they lived. Despite best efforts, we could see or hear the occasional kids, partners, pets, or roommates. A cat jumping up in front of a camera during a meeting was no longer an embarrassing crisis, but a wonderful moment of much needed levity during the most trying of times. Suddenly the business of doing business had become a little less businessy. We’ve become a little more tolerant and accepting of our humanness — and I for one hope it stays that way.
In the upcoming feature with Mei Mei Hu, you will learn about how she and her husband and business partner, Lou Reese, built a company dedicated to finding a vaccine for COVID-19 during a pandemic. It is a wonderfully inspiring story you won’t want to miss, so be sure to subscribe to Life Science Leader today.