Imperial COVID-19 Lockdown Lessons

Scientists at Imperial College have rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of ways, including:

  • Increasing our understanding of how the virus causes disease and spreads amongst the general population
  • Creating innovative technologies for rapid testing, vaccine development and building low cost ventilators
  • Initiating clinical research projects and clinical trials
  • Delivering the best in clinical care on the frontline in hospitals
  • Trialling mixed reality telemedicine to reduce the rates of infection in hospitals

You can watch recordings of a series lectures about our response here.

This series was curated by Professor Sara Rankin of the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London.

Event recordings

Lesson 1: The immunological response to COVID-19

Masters student Esther Bankole will introduce this session by telling us what immunology is and why it is important. Danny Altmann, Professor of Immunology at Imperial, will then tell us about the immunological response to COVID-19. Danny’s lab studies the immunological response to infectious diseases in a global health setting, for example studying immunity to Zika virus during the Brazilian outbreak. During this pandemic he has been delivering International webinars for the scientific community and providing witness evidence to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee and the House of Lords Committee.

Watch: The Immunological Response to COVID-19

Lesson 2: How an unlikely collaboration helped chemical engineers make hand sanitiser

While a degree in Chemical Engineering is commonly thought to lead to a career in the oil industry, in this session we will hear from Parth Shah, a PhD student, about what chemical engineering is and its applications in the 21st Century, revealing the exciting and rapidly growing field of Green Chemical Engineering. In addition we will hear from PhD student Chloe Armour about how chemical engineers also address health problems. We will then find out how researchers Parth Shah and Wenqian Chen have been using their skills as chemical engineers to produce hand sanitiser for the NHS — with an important contribution from Sipsmith the London Gin Makers.

Watch: How an unlikely collaboration with Sipsmith helped chemical engineers make hand sanitiser for the NHS

Lesson 3: The genomic resonse to COVID-19

Since 2016 a collaborative and interdisciplinary community of world-leading scientists has been working together with the aim to build a Human Cell Atlas — a collection of maps that will describe and define the cellular basis of health and disease. The central approach is based on the use of single cell genomics and computational biology to generate unique IDs for each type of cell in the body (eg neurons in the brain, lung epithelial (lining) cell, heart muscle cell, skin cell etc) from healthy as well as diseased tissues and organs. In response to COVID-19 these same scientists are now investigating the response of individual human cell types to COVID-19 infection. In this session cardiac molecular biologist, Dr Michela Noseda, one of the scientists contributing to this work, will be discussing how she has adapted her single cell genomics projects, which focus on cardiac disease to investigate the response to COVID-19 at a single cell level. She will be joined by Zuzanna Jablonska and Elsa Lawrence, both currently undertaking the MSc in Genes Drugs and Stem Cells, and involved in her research.

Watch: The genomic resonse to COVID-19

Lesson 4: Modelling the spread of the virus

Professor Steven Riley is an epidemiologist who uses computer modelling to predict the spread of infectious disease. He worked with the group of scientists whose models predicted that 250K people could die of COVID-19 in the UK if the lockdown was delayed, providing the Government with scientific evidence to endorse a lockdown. He will be joined by members of his team, Dr Kylie Ainslie, Dr Lucy Okell and Daniel Lydon to talk about their research on COVID-19.

Watch: Modelling the spread of the virus

Lesson 5: Testing for the presence of the COVID-19 virus and antibodies in patient samples

Dr Stephanie Ascough is a scientist who normally investigates the body’s response to viral respiratory infections like influenza. When COVID-19 hit the UK she responded to a call from the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) for scientists with molecular biology skills to help in the testing centres. Since April she has been working in a diagnostics testing centre at Milton Keynes. Today she will describe the scientific principles behind the test that detects if you currently have the virus, and the new tests that will test if you have antibodies against the virus and thus are likely to be protected from future infection. She is joined by Emma Bergstrom, a clinical research nurse who normally plays a critical role in Stephanie’s research, as she is responsible for recruiting participants to clinical trials and collecting patient samples, however in recent months she has been back on the wards treating COVID-19 patients.

Watch: Testing for the presence of the COVID-19 virus and antibodies in patient samples

Lesson 6: Creating a handheld test for COVID-19

Dr Pantelis Georgiou is an Electrical Engineer who specialises in Biomedical Electronics within the Dept of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial. One of his research projects focusses on using microchip technology to realise a lab-on-chip device that he has used to create handheld, low cost, rapid test for infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue. In this session he and his team, which includes Dr Nicolas Moser, will discuss how they have adapted this technology to create a handheld molecular test that can identify the presence of COVID-19 from patient samples within 20 mins.

Watch: Creating a handheld test for COVID-19

Lesson 7: COVID-19 clinical research and clinical trials

Professor Peter Openshaw is a world leading clinical researcher into influenza infections, and has been a key Government advisor in recent months, as well as during previous avian and porcine flu epidemics. Together with Ryan Thwaites he will talk about the research that they have been doing throughout the pandemic, analysing COVID-19 patient samples and also his role in establishing some of the on-going clinical trials.

Watch: COVID-19 clinical research and clinical trials

Lesson 8: What medicines could be used to treat COVID-19 patients?

Join Dr Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala and some of this year’s students from Imperial’s MSc in Genes Drugs and Stem cells to learn about how drugs work and the drugs that scientists are considering re-purposing for the treatment of COVID-19.

Watch: What medicines could be used to treat COVID-19 patients?

Lesson 9: Why interdisciplinary science is required to make a vaccine

Join Dr Anna Blackney, a Chemical Engineer from the US, to find out how she came to work with virologist Prof Robin Shattock at Imperial, and become part of the team that is currently developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Anna will introduce us to some of her other colleagues (Dr Paul McKay, Dr Kai Hu, Karnyart Samnuan) who make up the interdisciplinary team developing a COVID-19 Vaccine.

Watch: Why interdisciplinary science is required to make a vaccine

Lesson 10: Designing and building a new low cost ventilator- JAMVENT

In this webinar Dr Jakob Mathiszig-Lee, an anaesthetist who did his original training in medicine at Imperial, will explain how his experience on the wards with COVID-19 patients led him to team up with bioengineers Dr Joseph Sherwood, Dr Michael Madekurozwa and Dr Jennifer Frattolin to design and build a low cost ventilator

Watch: Designing and building a new low cost ventilator- JAMVENT

Lesson 11: Being on the frontline of patient care

Dr Chloe Bloom and Dr Jamilah Meghji, respiratory physicians, and Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, cardiology physician at the National Heart and Lung Institute, will discuss their experience on the wards during the COVID-19 epidemic. They will discuss the challenges of learning to treat a novel disease, adapting clinical services to meet new demands and ensuring the safety of patients and staff.

Watch: Being on the frontline of patient care

Lesson 12: Use of HoloLens mixed reality technology in hospitals

Dr James Kinross and Dr Guy Martin have been working in partnership with Microsoft and Imperial NHS Healthcare Trust to use HoloLens mixed reality technology in the treatment and care of COVID-19 patients. HoloLens is hands free and can be used while wearing PPE, and its telemedicine capabilities allow doctors to keep treating very ill patients while limiting their exposure to COVID-19, thereby reducing the rates of infection between staff and patients within hospitals

Watch: Use of HoloLens mixed reality technology in hospitals