Zoe Cournia

A devoted Biochemist in search of the “right” molecule-drug for Cancer!

We all have heard many stories of people that knew what they wanted to do from a very young age… but have you heard of a woman wanting to be a Chemist from elementary school at the age of 10? Zoe Cournia is a very ambitious young woman who has dedicated herself to her country and to finding the right molecule for the right mutation, such as cancer, as a result; extending our lives!

You would ask what does a chemist have to do with cancer? Isn’t that a biologist’s job? Well let me tell you her story from the start… She received her degree in chemistry in Athens and realizing then that besides chemistry she liked computer science, she combined chemistry with computers for her diploma thesis. She then travelled to Germany to open her horizon and get international experience and therefore she applied for a PhD in the University of Heidelberg, this time combining another fascinating science she was intrigued by; Biology… so putting the three together… computer simulation of biomolecules! I must say her interview was more like a seminar for me, I learned quite a bit about chemistry, biology, technology… as she has the talent and patience to explain everything in the simplest and fun way! Her PhD was focused on Cholesterol and how these molecules move around our body… But that wasn’t good enough for her, since she felt she wasn’t making a difference in helping human kind! So Today Zoe Cournia is working towards finding a molecule-drug for some types of Cancer! After spending a few years in Yale University as a postdoctoral associate and lecturer, Zoe came back to support her country and is now a part of a team in the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens.

During our mini but very constructive seminar, I learned quite a few things that I would like to point out: Did you know that when we say breast cancer, there is not just one type; but so many different types of just breast cancer? Also that from the moment that the doctor gets a biopsy of the rapidly growing cancer cell till it gets to labs finding and “if” they find a drug and till it gets tested in the cell, then to animals and at the end human trial testing and in the market, it takes over 15 years!!! And that’s a fast scenario! And it costs somewhere between 1 to 4 Billion dollars!!! I guess after learning this I have more respect for researchers as I always wondered if they are doing enough!!!

Zoe Cournia's specialty is in computer aided drug design… that means that due to her and her work, drugs for mutations and diseases are being found faster which means cost-effectively and lesser animal trials!!! Especially the second part is truly a relief to my ears!

Zoe started her path abroad to gain knowledge and international experience but only to come back to her country and serve it! And that’s the message she would like to give… to find your dream and to follow it, and when you are ready come back to your roots and make your own path and share the knowledge!