Despite its small size, the UK has always punched above its weight as a research nation. This meant that when COVID-19 first hit, the UK had the infrastructure and, importantly, the workforce to conduct vital medical research needed to understand and treat the novel virus. This research often takes place in partnership with universities who work with the NHS and industry to drive advances in patient care.
The impact of UK university research in the fight against COVID-19 has been vast. Examples include the development of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which continues to save countless lives across the globe, the world’s largest clinical trial into COVID-19 treatments, mass testing schemes and innovations in medical technologies. Universities are also exploring the wider implications of COVID-19 such as the impact on mental health, how it affects vulnerable communities and the effects of long Covid.
The MSC report, Responding to a pandemic: UK universities’ response to COVID-19, has collated case studies from across the country to highlight the range and impact of university-led studies. This is not an exhaustive list but instead a small sample of the considerable work that is taking place. The report is organised into five themes:
- Characterising a novel virus
- Driving improvements in treatment and patient care
- Informing the evolving policy response
- Supporting education and training
- Understanding the wider impact of COVID-19