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Global Collaboration Needed To Solve Coronavirus Challenges

The leaders of Imperial and Tsinghua University have called for global collaboration to tackle coronavirus and other global challenges.

President Alice Gast and Chen Xu, Chairperson of University Council, Tsinghua spoke at a joint symposium between the two universities on the ‘Covid-19 fightback and the future new normal’.

Former Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Margaret Chan and WHO Coronavirus Envoy, Dr David Nabarro, joined the university leaders from London, Beijing and around the world at the event to discuss how universities can help the global response to coronavirus.

President Gast said: “It is clear that the pandemic, as well as other global challenges cannot be solved by one country or one university alone, and that we will need collaboration and cooperation from all.”

President Gast added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has since caused us to make a number of rapid and profound changes in the ways we work and operate as scientists and as a university, but one thing that has not changed is our commitment to working with international colleagues and partners.”

Chairperson Chen said: “Global public health is facing an incredible challenge as COVID-19 threatens the lives of people across the world. At this moment it has never been so clear and urgent that only through solidarity and collaboration can we overcome this challenge.

“It is clear that the pandemic, as well as other global challenges cannot be solved by one country or one university alone, and that we will need collaboration and cooperation from all.”

President Gast and Chairperson Chen also announced that the Imperial-Tsinghua seed fund would be open for applications later in the year. 

The symposium brought together academics from Imperial and Tsinghua working in economics, vaccine development and diagnostic tools to share their thoughts on the impact of the pandemic and how their research is helping to overcome it.

Vice President Maggie Dallman, who chaired the symposium, said: “The pandemic has highlighted a real importance of friendships, relationships and collaborations. Already having a strong relationship with Tsinghua puts us in a strong position to help our world come through this crisis.”

Tsinghua’s Vice President and Provost, Yang Bin, said: “We have to learn from this challenge that only through solidarity and cooperation can we overcome difficulties and sustain higher education.”

Coronavirus is ‘the most cunning virus’

Margaret Chan, who is the Dean of Tsinghua’s Vanke School of Public Health, said: “The current pandemic is truly unprecedented in human history in terms of speed, severity and scale. The novel coronavirus is the most cunning virus I have ever seen in 40 years of working in global health.

“Development of drugs and vaccines are still underway and it is hard to predict if and when they become available.”

Professor David Nabarro, co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) said: “We know from the experience of China and other countries that in order to be able to ensure that social and economic life can continue, communities need to be able to defend themselves against the virus.

“People depend hugely on local and national governments, on universities with their capacity to provide science and evidence, on local and national organisations, on businesses as well, to be able to find their way to live with this virus as a constant presence and sometimes as a threat to their livelihoods.”

Economic catastrophe

Professor of Financial Economics at Imperial College Business School, and former Bank of England rate-setter David Miles, joined Tsinghua’s Jiandong Ju to speak about the economic impacts of coronavirus.

Professor Miles said: “The positive message is if there was ever a time in the history of countries to run enormous fiscal deficits, it’s right now. That’s because the interest rates in real inflation adjusted terms is extraordinary low.”

“It’s an economic catastrophe for the government to be borrowing so much money, at least it has come at a time when it is extraordinary cheap to borrow money.”

Jiandong Ju, Unigroup Chair Professor at PBC School of Finance at Tsinghua said: “Without international collaborations, the world is in crisis and China is facing both external pandemic and economic risks.”

Vaccine manufacturing

Imperial and Tsinghua with the support of TUS Holdings, are currently in discussions about further deepening our collaboration in vaccine manufacturing and to set up a Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Hub.

Professor Nilay Shah, Head of Department of Chemical Engineering, and Linqi Zhang, Chair of Global Health and Infectious Diseases Center, School of Medicine, Tsinghua discussed how Imperial and Tsinghua were working together in vaccine manufacturing.

Professor Shah explained how his team is working on ways to produce any successful vaccine rapidly and in mass quantities.

Professor Shah said: “We simply don’t have time to go through normal approaches to vaccine development.”

Diagnostic tools

Imperial and Tsinghua have some of the world’s top scientists on diagnostic tools.

Imperial’s Dr Pantelis Georgiou, is developing lab on a chip techniques for infectious diseases. Professor Georgiou said: “Coronavirus has brought to light a huge need for rapid diagnostic testing.”

Professor Jing Cheng from Tsinghua’s School of Medicine talked about the strategies for precision diagnosis for infectious disease, and proposed a national monitoring network for infectious diseases.


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