Group of experts in fight against Covid recognised in honours list

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A number of experts who have contributed their knowledge in science, pharmaceuticals and health to the fight against Covid-19 have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

They have helped inform the Government with its coronavirus policies while making tireless efforts to create a vaccine against the virus.

The majority of the honours list was compiled before the ongoing pandemic, but it was deferred in order to consider nominations for people playing crucial roles during the first months of the Covid-19 effort.

After lacking the limelight for so long, it is wonderful that the dedication, imagination and courage of so many colleagues is now being recognised

Among those to be honoured is Professor Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, who is receiving a knighthood for services to medical research.

He is co-founder of pharmaceutical company Synairgen which has developed an inhaled coronavirus treatment, with early trials showing 79% of hospital patients who took the drug had a lower risk of developing severe disease

Prof Holgate said: “This award is a great surprise to me.

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“After lacking the limelight for so long, it is wonderful that the dedication, imagination and courage of so many colleagues is now being recognised in positioning lung disease as a top medical priority.”

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been instrumental in the international effort to develop a vaccine and its chief executive officer Emma Walmsley is being made a dame in this year’s honour list.

This week, GSK and Vir Biotechnology announced the trial of their potential coronavirus treatment will move on to phase three, which will see the study expand globally to additional sites in North America, South America and Europe.

Ms Walmsley previously spoke about supporting researchers in order to scale up a vaccine as fast as possible, stating the “best way to guarantee access is to have the volume available”.

On the damehood, she said: “I’m humbled to receive this honour, it is a real testament to the many outstanding people we have at GSK and the work we do for patients and people here in the UK and around the world.”

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who leads the Covid Symptom Study (CSS) app with health-science company ZOE, is being made OBE for services to the coronavirus response.

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The app is supported by the Government and is used by more than 4.2 million people who are providing health data to help researchers and the NHS understand and beat the virus.

Prof Spector said: “It is great that the Kings-ZOE symptom study app has been given recognition in this way for its impact on Covid-19.

“The whole project got going in just four days and was only possible with the amazing app team at ZOE and the superb academic team at King’s College London all working together.

“This is an award for the whole team.”

Also being made OBE is Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – which provides scientific and technical advice to support governmental decision-making.

He is joined by Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is also be made OBE for services to the Covid-19 response.

Mr Medley said: “I am grateful that the work and expertise on SPI-M has been recognised.

“The provision of scientific evidence to support and guide the government response to Covid-19 is critical to help the UK get through this epidemic, and it has been a privilege to work with my colleagues to generate research, understanding and guidance.”

Meanwhile, Dr George Kassianos, national immunisation lead for the Royal College of General Practitioners, a role he has held for nearly 25 years, is also being recognised for his efforts during the pandemic by being made CBE for services to travel medicine and general practice.

Dr Kassianos said: “I came to the UK from Cyprus in 1974, started working in the NHS and fell in love with it, so I stayed.

“The ability we now have to vaccinate people against serious diseases is one of the great achievements of medical science and GPs and our teams play a vital role in ensuring high numbers of patients are immunised – something, for which, they should all be proud.”

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