It takes an entire team
The battle against COVID-19 is like the Olympics: a gargantuan international effort with high personal, economic and emotional stakes. In fact, since the Olympics were cancelled this year, COVID-19 seems to have taken their place. It keeps us addicted to our news sources. It is the talk of the day. And it brings together science, policy, business and societal organisations.
Clémence Ross-van Dorp, keynote speaker at this year’s Dutch Medicines Days, frequently uses the sports metaphor (see the interview on page 10). The former State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, currently ambassador for a Dutch action programme on life sciences and health, cites soccer legend Johan Cruijff: ‘Every disadvantage has its advantage.’ In other words, there are opportunities in this global crisis. Opportunities for science and pharma, and for international policy and cooperation.
The current global pandemic seems to speed up various processes: the scientific effort to understand the virus and its effects. The pharmaceutical challenge to develop a vaccine and optimal treatment. And the diplomatic effort to make sure no countries are left behind. It strengthens the feeling that we’re all in this together. Ross-van Dorp: ‘It takes an entire team.You can’t do it on your own.’
These are the silver linings to the cloud that could in fact be very dark. After all, this is only the beginning, as virologist Ab Osterhaus cautions on page 28. This pandemic has only just started – and it is mild, with a virus that is not particularly deadly nor infec- tious. It is only a matter of time until the world experiences an outbreak of a virus that is as deadly as Ebola and as infectious as the common cold.
Against this gloomy background, it crucial to recognise today’s golden opportunities – and use them.The organisers of the Figon Dutch Medicines Days 2020 have taken this task to heart.With their ambitious programme – online, of course, in the form of webinars throughout the fall – they offer an inspiring glimpse into the developments in the field. Not only into the scientific and pharmaceutical advances, but also into the growing cooperation worldwide.
A great deal of optimism comes from the presentations by the younger generation of scientists: the candidates in the Figon PhD Student Competition (pages 14-17). Opti- mism also surfaces throughout the talks on regenerative pharmacology (page 20) and physiologically-based pharmacokinetics by nestor Malcolm Rowland (page 24).
It remains to be seen when there will be an effective vaccine – and when we’ll see Olympic silver and gold again. But in the meantime, there is a world of silver linings and golden opportunities.