COVID-19 reflections: the lessons learnt from the pandemic

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Imperial researchers reflect on the lessons they will take away from the pandemic.

Over the past 12 months the Imperial College London community has devoted an intense amount of time and research to COVID-19. Members of the community have been making fundamental scientific contributions to respond to coronavirus, from advising government policy to critical therapy research. A year on, Imperial researchers reflect on what lasting impact the pandemic has left on them. 

Watch the clip above to hear the researchers’ insights. 

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Before I felt like just a person in the world, and now I feel like I’m one of those important people in the world! Dr Kai Hu

The first lesson is how fast- moving science is at this time. It is exciting to have been “on the forefront of vaccine discoveries” said Dr Anna Blakney, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, formally a Research Fellow in Imperial’s Department of Infection and Immunity. Imperial has also been key in finding optimal treatments for COVID-19, with clinical academics such as Anthony Gordon, Professor of Anaesthesia and Critical Care and Intensive Care consultant, caring for critically ill patients in intensive care units as well as leading clinical trials. Findings from these trials include the effective use of an arthritis drug in reducing mortality in COVID-19 patients.

The science doesn’t stop there. Outside of the lab Imperial academics have been informing UK government policy. Since the emergence of coronavirus the team from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis and Jameel Institute (J-IDEA) at Imperial have been predicting the course of the pandemic and informing policy. The team have also been supporting the COVID-19 response in New York State. Furthermore, Imperial academics including Professor Charles Bangham and Professor Wendy Barclay continue to advise the government as part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). 

In total the Imperial community has contributed nearly 2,000 key workers to essential services and research, from biomedical engineers developing rapid COVID-19 tests to health economists, generating a wealth of knowledge about the science behind the pandemic.

“This is the first time where I feel like what I have learnt is very useful” said Dr Kai Hu, Research Associate in the Department of Infectious Disease. “Before I felt like just a person in the world, and now I feel like I’m one of those important people in the world.” Dr Kai Hu is part of Professor Robin Shattock’s COVID-19 vaccine team, who continue to develop an RNA vaccine.

Watch our full COVID reflections video below, including researchers sharing their hopes for the future.

Imperial College London researchers reflecting on what they have learnt during COVID-19.

Collaboration is key

Another key lesson learnt is how much stronger we are when we work together. Vaccine development, production and delivery have all been achieved in under 12 months – an unprecedented timeframe for any disease prevention tool. This goes to show that collaborative efforts with the right funding will go a long way in biomedical science. “I can work even harder than I thought I could work because we can come together as a team” says Dr Paul McKay, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious Disease. “Science is a competitive endeavour, but a collaborative endeavour too.” 

Head shot of Professor Sonia Saxena
Professor Sonia Saxena

Something that will leave a lasting impression is the kindness of community, family and friends. Kindness at this time has been “unparalleled” said Sonia Saxena, Professor of Primary Care and General Practitioner. From providing free meals to NHS workers to educational materials for homeschooling there has been a feeling of togetherness, even when apart, throughout these difficult times. Going forward, we can bring these lessons into science, bringing more collaboration and kindness into the everyday. 


Alana Cullen

Alana Cullen
Communications Division

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Lucy Lipscombe

Lucy Lipscombe
Communications Division


Strategy-staff-community, Vaccines, Infectious-diseases, Viruses, JIDEA, Coronavirus, Staff-development, COVIDWEF, Public-health
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