When the novel coronavirus first emerged, it was new to everyone, even science. Since then, in the worldwide mobilisation to understand the virus, vast amounts of new research have been emerging every day. Standing at the frontline of this battlefield, Dr Soumya Swaminathan vets what the worlds’ scientists propose. As WHO’s Chief Scientist, she leads the charge at both understanding this virus and equipping the public with that knowledge. The daughter of ‘India’s Green Revolution Man’ MS Swaminathan, she has held a string of important positions throughout her career, from working on tuberculosis and HIV research to becoming the Director General of ICMR and later Deputy Director-General at WHO. Now, as the Chief Scientist, she designs the organisation’s scientific response and leads global partnerships on research to find a vaccine and other drug therapies. For us to emerge from this pandemic with fewer casualties and emotional scars, Swaminathan will have to play a crucial role.