Contributor: Professor David Murdoch, Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch and Board Member of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation
For many people, the world might feel like it has been upended. At the time of writing, at least a quarter of the world’s population is in lock-down, including every household in our island nation.
For those of us involved in research – and those of you who fund research – the current situation highlights a simple, unvarnished truth. Research is crucial. Understanding saves lives. Health challenges such as this novel coronavirus are not easy. To overcome them requires teams of experts working together to contribute their skill and knowledge acquired over many years.
The global research response to this pandemic has been immense. In January, Chinese scientists shared the genetic code of a newly discovered virus that causes a disease we now know as COVID-19. This enabled laboratories around the world, including a number in New Zealand, to develop a reliable, standardised test. This test is what New Zealanders are being given today, and the results of which are informing Government and their daily briefings to the public on the current state, and expected scale, of the pandemic. Researchers around the world are racing to develop vaccines and new treatments. In New Zealand, our researchers and academics have been advising the Government, producing models to predict the course of the pandemic, and playing a role in sharing their knowledge to explain the situation to the public.