As we respond and adapt to the evolving coronavirus pandemic, we continue to support the UK's best medical and health researchers and ensure their voices are included in the important discussions and decision-making ahead.
[Page last updated 19 May]
Our Fellowship, including the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, are leading the UK scientific response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Our President, Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, commented:“I applaud the Government’s approach of putting advice and evidence from world leading experts front and centre of their plans to deal with the global COVID-19 emergency.
“Uncertainty is inevitable in the coming months: it is amazing how much we have learnt already about a virus that emerged just a few months ago. Science thrives on debate and it is often the interaction of conflicting views and challenge that drives progress. However in an epidemic situation, like the one we are facing, people want certainty and firm reassurance. Trustworthy advice, from credible experts can quickly be politicised. Scientists bear a strong responsibility here and must work to ensure the public have access to the latest reliable evidence whilst at the same time maintaining awareness of its impact in the ongoing broader societal debate.”
Our Press Office is working to help ensure journalists have access to the UK's best medical and health experts. For enquires relating to coronarvirus, we are working directly with - and strongly recommended contacting in the first instance - the Science Media Centre (email@example.com, +44 (0)20 7611 8300). Our Press Office can also be contacted directly via Claire Bithell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07969 082520.
We want to hear from Academy Fellows or researchers who are interested in talking to the media. If you feel your area of work is not being covered, are involved in ongoing research, or want to comment on the news of the day to help people understand the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, please get in touch with Claire Bithell, email@example.com, 07969 082520.
We will continue to work with our Fellows, grant awardees and contacts to provide expert advice to Government, stakeholders and the public as the situation with coronavirus progresses.
Responsive media work and commentary:
Note: This list only covers comment from our President and Vice-Presidents, and not the many Fellows and grant awardees who are not only leading the UK's research and policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also taking the time to talk through the implications of their work daily in the media. Please also see other tabs for media about the Academy's own COVID-19 work.
- Click here to read our President's interview with Newsweek - 'We have to do things differently' (Friday 22 May)
- Click here to listen to our President on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme talking about how lockdown decisions are the basis of team science, rather than any one individual. (Wednesday 6 May)
- Click here to listen to our Vice President (International) Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci on BBC Radio 4 PM programme . (Monday 4 May)
- Click here to read our Vice President (International) Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci on where we need to focus attention before lifting lockdown. (Sunday 3 May)
- Click here to listen to our President on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme talking about convalescent plasma therapy. (Tuesday 28 April)
- Click here to watch our Vice President (International) Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci talking about daily deaths, testing and the wider impacts the epidemic on the BBC News Special following the daily government press briefing (Saturday 23 April)
- Click here to listen to our Vice President (International) Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci on BBC Radio 4 Today talking about reducing transmission and making comparisons between countries (1:39:00, Friday 24 April)
- Our President talked with Sky News about the UK's vaccine research programmes for COVID-19, and the potential of convalescent plasma therapy (Thursday 23 April)
- Click here to listen to our President answer questions from the public on BBC Radio 5 Live. Are vaccine projects collaborating or competing, are there are enough people who’ve recovered to use their blood to help, and does medical development get helped or hindered by a crisis? (Wednesday 22 April)
- Click here to read our President talking about the potential of convalescent plasma therapy (Monday 20 April)
- Our President talked with the BBC News at Ten on the potential of convalescent plasma therapy (Sunday 19 April)
- Click here to listen to our President on the BBC Radio 4 Today talking about government advice, ongoing coronavirus research and more. (Tuesday 7 April)
- Our President responded to questions around new research efforts to tackle coronavirus and concerns around testing types and capacity on the BBC News channel (Friday 3 April)
- Click here to view our President's response to the government’s new 'stay home' measures (Monday 23 March)
- We hosted the Science Media Centre for a press conference specifically focused on health and science questions around coronavirus - giving health and science journalists time with Professor Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer) and Sir Patrick Vallance (Chief Scientifc Adviser). This was streamed live on BBC2 and other news outlets. The full briefing is available to watch below. (Wednesday 19 March)
- Click here to view our President's response to the government’s first press conference on coronavirus (Monday 16 March)
- Click here to view our Vice President - International's response to the government’s first press conference on coronavirus (Monday 16 March)
- Click here to view our President's response to the Budget (Wednesday 11 March)
- Click here to view our President's response to the government’s publication of their action plan to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak (Tuesday 3 March)
- Novel coronavirus: Are we ready? - A blog from Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci, our Vice President - International and Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London. (Monday 3 February)
Visit our Press Office homepage.
Our policy work continues to inform and reflect the issues critical to a healthy society.
UK preparedness and response: In the UK, the Academy has been co-ordinating research nationally in three key areas: immunology, drug discovery and mental health.
The Academy and the British Society for Immunology have rapidly convened an expert group to collate what is currently known about the immunology of COVID-19 and develop Immunology research priorities in response to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). The expert group will publish their outputs within approximately three weeks (May 2020), with the intention of urgently mobilising and coordinating the UK’s immunology research response to coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out more on our dedicated policy page.
Preclinical drug discovery and development
The Academy is conducting a rapid response project to map ongoing and emerging COVID-19 preclinical drug development research activities to help researchers and funders identify opportunities for collaboration, avoid duplication of effort and prioritise the most promising research. Find out more on our dedicated policy page.
Mental health research priorities
In late March/early April 2020, the Academy and MQ rapidly convened an expert group to develop mental health and neuroscience research priorities in response to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).The expert group set out the immediate priorities and longer-term strategies for mental health science research in a Position Paper published on 15 April 2020 in The Lancet Psychiatry, with the intention of urgently mobilising and coordinating the UK’s mental health and neuroscience research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a joint statement with MQ, the Academy has endorsed the research priorities set out in this Paper. Find out more on our dedicated policy page. Key media responses include:
- BBC News: Coronavirus: 'Profound' mental health impact prompts calls for urgent research (Thursday 16 April 2020)
- Guardian: 'Urgent studies needed' into mental health impact of coronavirus (Thursday 16 April 2020)
- i Newspaper: Coronavirus lockdown: UK faces mental health crisis ‘perfect storm’ (Thursday 16 April 2020)
- Daily Mail: Scientists call for urgent research to protect frontline workers and the vulnerable from the 'profound and pervasive impact' of coronavirus lockdown on mental health (Thursday 16 April 2020)
- BBC Radio 4 Today: interviews with key authors (2:50:00, Thursday 16 April 2020)
Young people and COVID-19
We are excited to be working with Manchester University NHS Trust and Wowbagger Productions to create a comic that empowers young adults (16-25 year olds) to make sense of the coronavirus pandemic through an engaging story and access to evidence and experts from different research disciplines. If you would like to hear more or contribute as one of the experts working with the young adults to understand the pandemic and develop their own content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethical framework for the COVID-19 testing
The Academy is endorsing a project being run by Regional Champion Professor Mary Dixon-Woods FMedSci through The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute, a research centre based at the University of Cambridge and funded by the Health Foundation. The project will produce recommendations for an ethical framework for the COVID-19 testing regime for NHS workers by convening an independent expert group, undertaking a consultation and providing a set of practical recommendations to guide policy and practice. The project is intended to report in June 2020. Find out more on the THIS Institute website.
Patient and public involvement and engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Academy held a digital FORUM workshop, in partnership with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the Association of Medical Research Charities and the National Institute for Health Research, exploring what we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic on system-wide implementation of patient and public involvement in life science research. Find out more on our event page.
Global preparedness and response: we continue to work with our partners around the world to share information and enable a co-ordinated international response to the pandemic.
On 20 February, we published a joint report on interdisciplinary research in epidemic preparedness and response. The workshop Chair, Professor Jimmy Whitworth FMedSci, Professor of International Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, shares key messages from the workshop in this blog. This was the result of a two-day workshop in October 2019 hosted jointly by the InterAcademy Partnership and the Medical Research Council and as part of our Global Challenges Research Fund policy programme.
Ahead of the release of this report, our Vice President - International, Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci, also Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London, reflected on the world's preparedness for the Covid-19 epidemic. Read the full blog: Novel coronavirus: Are we ready? (3 February)
Brazil/UK virtual meeting on COVID-19
In the present crisis, the Brazilian National Academy of Medicine and the UK Academy of Medical Sciences are collaborating and sharing experiences to better collaborate in their respective countries with the view that science, science values and scientific approaches to problem-solving remains the best hope for humanity to overcome the present crisis. Following the virtual meeting on the 16 April jointly hosted by the Academies which shared learning from tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the two Academy's have published a joint statement on COVID-19. More information can be found on our dedicated event page.
Rapid testing of new vaccines
The Academy has previously addressed the key issues and challenges around rapid vaccine development through our work on controlled human infection challenge studies - where a well-characterised strain of an infectious agent is given to carefully selected adult volunteers in order to better understand the disease. This 2018 workshop, held in collaboration with Wellcome and the Human Infection Challenge vaccine network, discussed the current environment for controlled human infection challenge studies in the UK and how to ensure appropriate oversight of this research. Read the full report.
We have previously also supported and reflected on high-level responses to different viral outbreaks, in particular with our 2005 report on pandemic influenza and the 2007 follow up symposium with the Royal Society. In 2015, we also partnered with the Wellcome Trust to explore the use of neuraminidase inhibitors in influenza.
Research is a key part of addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. We are supporting initiatives to ensure data is shared effectively and helping organisations co-ordinate to support rapid and effective epidemic preparedness and response.
Data sharing and transparency
Together with over 60 other funders, academies and scientific organisations from across the globe, we have called on researchers, journals and funders to ensure that research findings and data relevant to this outbreak are shared rapidly and openly to inform the public health response and help save lives.
This joint letter, published on 31 January 2020, affirms our commitment to the principles set out in the 2016 Statement on data sharing in public health emergencies, and will seek to ensure that the World Health Organization has rapid access to emerging findings that could aid the global response.
As part of our commitment to open access, we also require all our grant awardees to ensure their peer-reviewed, original research publications are freely publically available - ideally immediately, or if not within 6 months. Read our full policy here.
Coordination of research funding
The Academy is a member of the Epidemics Preparedness and Response Group convened by the UK Collaborative on Development Research. This group supports UK research funders to share relevant information, network and communicate to support coherence and collaboration in the funding and the use of research in epidemics preparedness and response.
Key related work from other organisations
- The National Institute of Health Research is funding and helping to deliver a range of “rapid response” research to better understand and tackle COVID-19, including research into vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests, and real-time collection of samples and data from people undergoing treatment in hospitals. Find out more.
The Health Research Authority have developed new decision tools and a fast-track review process to support researchers to gain the necessary ethical approval as soon as possible for research relating to coroavirus. Information about each new approved COVID-19 research project is being published on their website.
UKRI have published 'Coronavirus: the science explained' This website, regularly updated, lays out the facts about COVID-19, the epidemic, and its control.
- A selection of research funding calls and support from other organisations are highlighted here.
We will be as flexible as possible to support all our researchers around the challenges of COVID-19.
We've published a series of FAQs answering key questions around our grant schemes and applications - click here to download (also available at the side of this page).
Our grants support many clinical academics now being asked to pause their research and focus on patient care. Together with the wider research community, we've issued guidance to reassure our awardees that you have our full support. Read the full joint statement on the Royal College of Physicians’ website.
Our programme of grant funding is continuing to operate, although timings may change. Please visit individual scheme pages for details about specific grant rounds.
Staff are working remotely and will continue to provide support to applicants and awardees.
We will be as flexible as possible to support all our researchers around the challenges to their work from coronavirus. If you encounter problems that may result in a delay to the start of your Award, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss this. If you encounter problems during your Award, we encourage you to not request a no-cost extension until the last three months of the Award, so that all factors can be considered and multiple requests for the same Award can be reduced. Please note that all requests for extensions should be made prior to your Award end date. We will continue to consider requests for no-cost extensions on a case-by-case basis, but please be assured that requests for no-cost extensions to Awards that have been impacted by Covid-19 will be granted.
Please visit individual scheme pages for details about specific grant rounds.
The Academy headquarters building is currently closed and we are moving our events to online platforms where possible.
Staff are working remotely and will continue to provide support to our Fellows, grant awardees and programme participants.
All face-to-face Academy meetings are now postponed or cancelled for the foreseeable future. We are continuing a range of events online, including policy workshops and career support programmes. Please see our events page and contact organisers directly for more information.