The Summer School will cover three streams of work. The streams are:
- Point Mutations
Below you will find information on each daily session which we will update as more details are finalised. Live online teaching sessions will use a range of activities to promote active learning and will include: scenario-based learning, workshops, demonstrations, walk-through exercises, presentations, interactive panel talks, team challenges (synchronous and asynchronous) and curated discussion forums. In addition to the daily sessions there will also be guest lectures from Imperial's world-renowned academics. Further information on these will be released soon.
Please note that this information is as accurate as it can be, but there may be a few changes to the schedule as we approach this year's Summer School.
Stream 1 - Populations
How do we model a pandemic? Could you explain to someone else where the infamous R number comes from? A gentle introduction to the mathematics of modeling for biomedical students with no prior knowledge, together with hands-on exercises.
Health policy and behaviour change
How do health authorities earn the trust and cooperation of affected communities? Some countries have seen hesitancy about vaccine campaigns, or reluctance to wear masks. Other countries have no problems with these measures. Given that people respond in different ways, and there are different stakeholder groups in every society, how should we coordinate a response to health priorities and emergencies? In this theme, you will work in small teams to propose a health policy and its implementation – can you all reach agreement about the way ahead?
Stream 2 - Patients
Disease transmission, pathogenesis and risk
Why does COVID make us ill, and why are some people more seriously affected than others? Find out about virus entry, and lung pathology, and what we can learn from the analysis of airway samples from different types of patient. What questions can we sensibly ask about these patient samples, and how can we be sure that our conclusions and predictions are reliable?
Why does COVID persist in some patients, and what can we do about it? Some COVID patients report that their recovery is slow. Months after the classical symptoms of infection have disappeared, these patients report a wide range of persistent problems. Several physiological systems can be involved – respiratory, cardiovascular, gastro-intestinal, nervous system. Some authorities say that Long COVID has no physical origin – that it’s a purely psychological disorder with no viral or inflammatory component. Other scientists are trying to predict the risk of Long COVID in different patient groups. If we are going to support these patients and understand their illness, what kind of data do we need, and who is collecting it?
Challenge studies: COVID infection of healthy volunteers
How does the body respond to infection with COVID-19? The median incubation period is about 5 days, depending on the strain of virus. We can study infected patients at this stage – but we have already ‘missed’ the first 5 days and cannot obtain any data about the early stages of infection. For this reason, we can do a Challenge Study, in which healthy young volunteers are deliberately infected with controlled doses of virus in a hospital setting. Imperial College is the sponsor for the world’s first COVID-19 challenge study. This study raises important questions about safety, consent and ethics, as well as immunology and virology. In this theme you will gain insights into the decisions we need to make when designing and implementing a challenge study, while information and policy are rapidly changing.
You can read more about the Challenge Study on the following hVIVO webpage.
Stream 3 - Point Mutations
Vaccine design and other treatments
How does virus structure contribute to decisions about therapy? If you had to design a vaccine, where would you start? Several vaccines have been deployed across the world in record time. The developers have taken different approaches, but most have relied on discoveries in protein structure, cell biology and gene sequencing. In this theme you will have a chance to apply informatic data to the design of a novel vaccine.
Viral genomes and emergent strains
What can we learn from viral gene sequences? You have probably heard that new variants of COVID-19 have been detected – in Britain, South Africa, Brazil, India and other countries besides. These variants have amino-acid substitutions in one of their proteins, most often (so far) the famous Spike protein. In this theme you will find out how we detect these new strains in the sequencing databases, and how we predict the phenotypes of emerging strains we identify.
Host genetics and COVID susceptibility
What are the factors of differential response to pathogens and other biological challenges? Rapid advances in DNA sequencing and analytic technologies enable us to address problems about that would have been far harder to address even a decade ago. The genetics tool-box includes methods for the study of individuals, families, clusters and populations, depending on the question we want to answer. How can we leverage these methods to ask questions (for example) about host responses to one strain of a virus, or to one type of vaccine? Which approaches would you use, given constraints of time and money?