Two leading scientists from the University of Oxford will join Professor Jonathan Van-Tam at this year’s Christmas Lectures by the Royal Institution.
Professors Teresa Lambe OBE and Katie Ewer, who both played a key role in the UK’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will lead an on-screen exploration into their areas of scientific expertise.
They will aim to offer insights into the world of viruses – how they infect humans, and how humans respond – particularly in the context of vaccine development and infection control. They will also reveal why discoveries and advances made during the ongoing pandemic will have an impact far beyond COVID-19 and are set to change the future of medicine.
Professor Lambe is a Professor of Vaccinology and Immunology in the Oxford Vaccine Group, overseeing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine programme. From January 2020, she co-designed the vaccine, led the pre-clinical studies and then oversaw the delivery of the immune results needed to support regulatory approval of the vaccine in late 2020.
She said: ‘The Christmas Lectures are such a unique opportunity to share a passion for science, and to encourage young people to stay in science and to stay inquisitive. We need this enthusiasm, now more than ever, to tackle the big questions facing society.’
Professor Ewer is a cellular immunologist and Associate Professor at the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. During the pandemic, she has been an investigator on clinical trials of the Oxford/AZ vaccine, studying samples from volunteers to determine the strength of their cellular immune response to vaccination and how those responses relate to protection against COVID-19 infection.
She said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity to share our enthusiasm for viruses and vaccines with a very important audience – young people. Working together with Professor Van Tam and the Royal Institution team, I hope we can transmit that enthusiasm and pique the interest of a future generation of scientists.’
Lucinda Hunt, Director of the Royal Institution, said: ‘We are delighted that Jonathan will be joined by such an exciting and expert group of scientists during this year’s series of three Christmas Lectures.
‘They will work together to take us on a journey through the world of viruses – how they arise, how they proliferate, and how science and society responds – just as they are doing in tackling the current pandemic. What a strong and positive message that will be for our young audience, about the power of collaborative science.’
The lectures will be broadcast on BBC Four and iPlayer between Christmas and New Year, with Dr Ewer appearing on Monday 28 Dec at 8pm and Prof. Lambe on Wednesday 30 Dec at 8pm.