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Guiding the nation through a pandemic: Somervillians stepping up part 2

29th May 2020

From advising the public and co-ordinating major agencies to innovating in the ways that treatment is delivered on the ground, Somervillians are making a difference at every level of the nation’s response to the pandemic.

In the second edition of ‘Somervillians Stepping Up’, we take a look at the work being done at the strategic and national level to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

If you are involved in the fight against Covid19 in any capacity and can spare a moment to get in touch, please do share you stories with us by contacting development.office@some.ox.ac.uk.

Guiding the Nation: Professor Dame Angela McLean and Dr Xand van Tulleken

Somervillians are involved at the highest levels of the response to Coronavirus. Professor Dame Angela McLean (1979, Maths, Honorary Fellow) is assisting the government’s response as Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser. This role has led to her making seminal contributions to the national debate around coronavirus, often from the podium of the daily coronavirus press conference. Most recently, she has spoken about the importance of transparency in the government’s use of scientific advice as well as the need for a system to test, trace and isolate the infected before lockdown can be eased.

Professor Dame Angela McLean

Meanwhile, doctor and broadcaster Dr Xand van Tulleken (1994, Medicine) has been helping to guide viewers through the challenge of keeping mentally and physically healthy while quarantined at home. As presenter of HealthCheck UK, Xand’s clear, rational commentary are comforting hundreds of thousands of Britons, while his unorthodox dance moves provide delight to almost as many – perhaps the latter were acquired at one or more Somerville bops?

Dr Xand van Tulleken

The Race to Find Life-Saving Treatment: Professor Daniel Anthony, Dr Suzie Anthony and Dr Emma Ladd

Four Somervillians are at the forefront of the race to pioneer an effective treatment for COVID-19. Professor Daniel Anthony, Fellow in Experimental Neuropatholoy, is currently serving as Scientific Lead for a study initially conceived by Dr Bobojon Nazarov (MSc Pharmacology, 2011), which will evaluate the effectiveness of the drug Nafamostat Mesilate. Already safely prescribed in Japan as a pancreatitis drug, Nafamostat has been demonstrated to reduce the severity of disease in laboratory experiments.

Professor Anthony is joined in this research by Dr Suzie Anthony, a consultant radiologist who teaches medical students at Somerville and alumna Dr Emma Ladd (2007, Medicine). Of the study, Professor Anthony is optimistic that Nafamostat will be able not only to prevent clinical progression of the infection, but also reduce mortality, and speed recovery of patients. You can read the full story about Somerville’s involvement in the Nafamostat trials here: https://bit.ly/3e0NevF

This diagram explains how the researchers hope to use the Nafamostat to treat Coronavirus patients

Caring for Reproductive Health in a Pandemic: Deborah Bateson

Deborah Bateson (1977, Biochem) is Medical Director of Family Planning for New South Wales. She has joined Australia’s national Covid-19 reproductive and sexual health taskforce, meeting the challenge of maintaining access to contraception and safe abortion services while moving to a telemedicine model. She is also contributing to a similar taskforce for the Asia Pacific region where supply chains for medications including contraceptives are becoming highly affected by the crisis. She will be sharing the lessons learned so far in an editorial she is leading on the pandemic and Sexual and Reproductive Health, due to be published in the British Medical Journal soon.

Bringing Innovation to the Table: Hilary Newiss, June Raine and Maryanna Tavener

Hilary Newiss (1974, PPP) and June Raine (1971, Physiological Sciences) have been working to coordinate national efforts to innovate to meet the challenge of Covid19 as members of the Accelerated Access Collaborative Board. June is at the sharp end of the pharmaceutical response as CEO of Medicines and Heathcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  Hilary, meanwhile, sits on the boards for both Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, which assists with vaccine development, and National Voices, which helps to ensure patient voices are heard and that social and ethical questions are considered within the NHS.

Maryanna Tavener, (1985, Physics) who is working weekends with the Respiratory Team at Winchester Hospital as an FY1, innovated with the help of 3D printing to expand the respirator supply at her hospital. Using equipment borrowed from her son’s school, she was able to create the necessary parts to convert diagnostic machines into ones to support breathing. At home, Maryanna has converted part of her home into a makeshift annexe so she can continue to work without endangering her family.

In our next installment we will be shining a spotlight on even more ways that our community have been stepping up. If you or a Somervillian you know has been assisting our amazing health and care services, or working in any capacity to help us through the outbreak, you can get in touch at development.office@some.ox.ac.uk.

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