The British Society for Immunology was honoured to welcome Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, to give a plenary talk at our virtual conference which took place on 1-2 December 2020.
Sir Patrick joined the ‘Immunology and COVID-19’ session which also featured a presentation from Professor Paul Moss and Dr John Grainger on behalf of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC), which forms the largest UK government investment in immunology COVID-19 research to date.
Speaking on the day that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for UK use, Sir Patrick reflected on his role of Chief Scientific Advisor during the pandemic and the huge advances that we have made in our understanding of the disease’s biology and treatments and vaccines. He discussed the critical nature of collaboration in moving the research forward so quickly, praising both the British Society for Immunology and UK-CIC as excellent examples of collaborative science in action. He also discussed how important a flexible approach to funding COVID-19 research had been over the past 9 months and the challenges that still lie ahead.
On where we go from here, Sir Patrick observed that the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine was “the beginning of the end” but there is still a long road to travel and we mustn’t throw away all we have achieved so far.
His parting words were to commend the huge contribution that the UK immunology community and the BSI has made to COVID-19 pandemic research. We have shown what scientists can achieve when we collaborate. It provides hope and encouragement to keep working together at scale to tackle the big problems.
Our huge thanks go to Sir Patrick Vallance for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak at our conference and to our delegates for asking such thoughtful questions during the session.