Vincentian is one of the best in field of immunology
January 11, 2013
Vincentian is one of the best in field of immunology

Margaret Bynoe could be considered a trendsetter, even in her early years as a young, single mother living in Georgetown.{{more}}

Now, Margaret Bynoe, PhD, she is considered one of the top scientists in the field of immunology, thanks to her breakthrough discoveries, while still in training, and later on in her career.

Home on a two-week working vacation to visit family and friends, Bynoe sat down with SEARCHLIGHT to share her climb from humble beginnings to being one of the best in her area of work.

The professor of immunology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine was in 2011, lauded as a rising star, after she discovered a way to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease which affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other effectively, and can leave a patient paralyzed.

While studying at Yale University, and experimenting on mice in her laboratory, Bynoe discovered that their immune system could be reprogrammed to fight the MS cells.

While employed at Cornell University, she also uncovered a means to breach the “blood brain barrier”, which allows for immune cells to enter and fight diseases in the brain, which is one of the first areas usually attacked by viruses and bacteria.

Her discoveries are not only being used to treat this disease, but the techniques can also be used in the fight against HIV and Alzheimer’s disease.

“A big deal is made about stuff like this because of the potential impact it would have on the treatment for patients of certain types of diseases, but more that, it’s a recognition that the individual (myself) is making these strides at an early stage in her career,” Bynoe indicated.

“This is early in my career as a scientist. I’ve only been working now for seven years, even though I’d been in the field for 18 years at that time.”

According to Bynoe, it takes at least 16 years of training before an individual could be considered a scientist.

What made her achievement remarkable, is that she made a number of ground breaking discoveries within that period.

Bynoe credits her drive and work ethic to her growing up in St Vincent, and the guidance that she received from her mother Algiva Bynoe, while living here.

She said that, by definition, she is considered an anomaly; a Vincentian, West Indian, black woman, in a field which is dominated by men.

“I, fortunately, had been born and raised in St Vincent and given values that helped me to stand my ground.

“My mother from day one, she always insisted and always enforced that whatever you do, you must be forceful in what you do, you must make a mark, you must do 100 per cent and then some. So with that mindset, anything I decided I am going to do, I go into it with the mindset that I would give it my all and a lot of the times it pays off.

“This is about growing confidence. You know what you do, you know what you’re about, and you just plod away at what you want to do, and what you want to establish for yourself, and if you do the right thing along the way, it makes your work easier in the end, and you get the recognition and appreciation of your peers, and that’s really appreciated in science.

“There are not a lot of black people in science in the United States and the few that are there, it’s really difficult to break ground.”

The former Georgetown and Langley Park primary school student, dropped out of the Georgetown Secondary School after becoming pregnant, but that did not deter her from following her dreams.

After migrating to the United States, and starting from scratch, she pursued studies in medical technology, a path less travelled at that time.

Bynoe studied at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yale University, before settling at Cornell, where she is a professor and conducts her research.

Throughout the years, she has been a trailblazer in the field of immunology, and indicated that she is just getting started.

“It’s about problem solving, it’s about thinking and exercising your thought process at the highest possible degree that you can, to solve medical and scientific problems,” she noted.

“The most fascinating and rewarding thing is that it appears that there is no end to it. It’s timeless; you could do this until you are a hundred years old.”

The mother of a daughter, who herself has a degree in public health, Bynoe indicated that she hopes to someday return home, and get involved in the training of science teachers.