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Queen Mary research and expertise hitting the headlines

As the coronavirus crisis continues to have a widespread effect on the UK, academic expertise and research at Queen Mary are playing an important part in public life.

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The call for academic expertise and impactful, quality research has never been greater than it is at this time. Queen Mary is rising to the challenge by providing thorough, insightful outputs from each of our faculties.

From tackling the social implications of a pandemic to probing the UK government’s response, take a look at some of the work of our academics’ which has been covered by the media over the last week.

Cracking the Covid-19 code

full page feature in The Telegraph profiled Professor Sir Mark Caulfield and the new programme of Covid-19 research he and his team are conducting across Barts Health hospitals. He said: “On the one hand this virus is a massive threat to us all but it is also a unique opportunity. It is only in the midst of a pandemic that you can really begin to understand it and how to combat this type of disease. We have to grab this chance with both hands now in case there are subsequent waves of the infection that could, through mutation, be even more lethal than what we are faced with now.”

The work undertaken by the professor of clinical pharmacology and his team will delve into the microbiology of the virus. In doing so, they hope to discover why the impact of the infection differs so dramatically across individuals.

International responses to coronavirus

Dr Stella Ladi, Senior Lecturer in Public Management in the School of Business and Management, was quoted in a Time Magazine article questioning how Greece has so far escaped the worst of the coronavirus. She said: “From a cultural perspective, every discussion, every wish for the future, always ends with a word for good health. It’s not debatable whether health is more important than keeping your shop open. Health is more important and the shop comes second. It was not a contested issue like in other places.”

Professor Sophie Harman, Professor of International Politics, was quoted in a Daily Telegraph article looking at how the World Health Organisation is facing criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and figures from its most recent financial reports. These show that it spent eight percent of its $2.2 billion budget on travel expenses, compared to four percent on medical supplies and materials. Professor Harman said: “Travel costs have been a public relations nightmare for the WHO, especially when they say they need more money from member states. It's hard to justify increasing its budget when everyone is flying business class.”

Scrutinising the UK Government’s response

The Guardian published a letter by Dr Grace Okoli from the Blizard Institute calling for health inequality to be investigated and for the government to instruct the National Institute for Health Research to make an urgent call for research into why BAME groups are disproportionately affected. She writes: "As a GP working in a large BAME community, I am concerned by the unsupported assumption that low levels of vitamin D in BAME communities is contributing to the disproportionately high numbers affected by Covid-19."

Addressing social implications

Senior Lecturer in Gender and Global Health Policy Dr Anuj Kapilashrami was interviewed about her research published by the Queen Mary Global Policy Institute which calls for an intersectional view of the coronavirus pandemic by NPR’s The Well Woman Show. During the programme Dr Kapilashrami discussed how gender and burden of care play an important role in pandemics, women’s needs in combating the pandemic and how inequalities and injustices have been revealed by Covid-19. The show also explored Kapilashrami’s personal experience as a feminist academic.

Looking for answers in unexpected places

Professor Richard Buggs from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live's Breakfast show about how his research into ash dieback could be applied to the coronavirus. He said: "What we've been learning from our research on the ash dieback epidemic that's been affecting our ash trees for the last ten years or so in the UK, is that genetic variation in the host, in the ash trees themselves, is very important in determining how resistant each tree is to this fungus. And it seems that exactly the same thing is happening in human populations, there is a lot of variation in how badly people are affected by the coronavirus."

Celebrating and supporting NHS workers

Professor of Surgery, country singer and consultant surgeon at Barts and the London NHS Trust Charlie Knowles has written a touching ballad in memory of NHS and other key workers who have lost their lives fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The story was picked up by the Mail, with Professor Knowles remarking that he hopes the song will help listeners “recognise the risk key workers are taking on behalf of the nation”. His goal is for the ballad to raise money for the families of people who have died or been incapacitated by the virus - £3,500 was donated within the first 24 hours of its release.

Donations can be made on the JustGiving page Charlie has set up.