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Westminster Hall debate: The role of immunology research in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak

Today, Jim Shannon MP (DUP, Strangford), the DUP Westminster Health Spokesperson, led a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons on the role that immunology research has played in the COVID-19 pandemic. The BSI worked closely with him to highlight the work that UK immunologists have done over the last eighteen months that means that not only do we have the highly successful Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine being deployed here and abroad, but we also have a range of therapeutics to treat COVID-19 patients, and a much greater understanding of the effect that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has on our immune systems.

Raising the profile of the crucial role that UK immunologists have played during the pandemic is incredibly important for ensuring that the sector receives the recognition it deserves and the funding it needs in the future to reach its potential and flourish.

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, commented:

“It is encouraging to see all the work that UK immunologists have done during the pandemic being championed today in Parliament. The last 18 months have shown that immunology has had a disproportionately large effect in driving forward our understanding the science of, and helping us recover from, COVID-19. Immunology has been the lynchpin linking together many parts of the pandemic response including virology, respiratory science, and epidemiology. This, and the significant patient benefits and public health improvements, is directly demonstrative of the huge value of investing further in immunology research.

“It was also positive to hear UK-CIC being recognised, not just for its novel discoveries and major contributions to the pandemic response, from determining the effectiveness of dexamethasone to working out the most effective interval between vaccine doses, but also for the success of the new funding model that the consortium embodied.

“The BSI has strongly recommended to the Government that the research infrastructure that has been built up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, like the consortium funding models, should be preserved even when COVID-19 becomes endemic. This would enormously improve the level of pandemic preparedness in the UK and could even be used to tackle other major public health issues that loom on the horizon like antimicrobial resistance and cancer immunotherapy.”

Watch the debate here.


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