Going viral: How Covid changed science forever – The invisible enemy (2021)

Jonathan Van-Tam

Jonathan Van-Tam is joined by leading experts to explore viruses, the immune system and modern testing technology. 

Watch time: 59:13

Lecture 1 – The invisible enemy

Jonathan Van-Tam dives into the micro-world of viruses, revealing how these invisible invaders can infect our bodies, and how a revolution in testing may transform medicine forever.

With the help of immunologist Katie Ewer and virologist Ravi Gupta, this action-packed lecture will reveal the inner workings of the virus by blowing it up and inviting the audience to take part in a heist mission. Can they hijack our cell machinery to replicate?

Up against the virus, is our immune system, designed to fight back. We’ll dive into a nose to uncover the wonders of snot and whittle down the winner of a game of antibody bingo to crack how our immune system can defeat this invisible enemy.

One of the most impressive scientific advances over the past two years has been the development of new testing techniques in our battle against Covid-19. We’ll peel back the mysteries of PCR, hack into a supersize lateral flow and show how modern diagnostic technology could shape the future of medicine.


In the 2021 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, Jonathan Van-Tam was joined by expert British scientists who all played vital roles in the Covid-19 pandemic, to reveal how new discoveries are set to change the future of medicine.

With millions of lives at stake and no treatments or vaccines to hand, these scientists fell back on tried and tested principles of contact tracing and isolation. Alongside this, they accelerated their research to achieve the impossible. They raced to understand the virus’s biology, to find treatments and create vaccines that could bring the pandemic under control. And they succeeded. Within 11 months the first vaccine was produced – a process that often takes 10 years.

Jonathan showed how public health measures, combined with ground-breaking science, will have an impact far beyond Covid-19. He will be joined by six guest lecturers, cellular immunologist Katie Ewer, mathematical biologist Julia Gog, clinical microbiologist Ravi Gupta, pharmacologist Tess Lambe, chartered mechanical engineer Cath Noakes, and microbiologist Sharon Peacock.

Together they demonstrated biomedical breakthroughs that could help fight other infectious diseases, genetic disorders and even cancer. From advances in early detection techniques – lateral flow tests, blood tests and wearable tech which can detect illnesses before symptoms are even noticeable – to rapid genome sequencing that could be used to speed up cancer diagnosis or assess organ donor compatibility, to the world’s first mRNA vaccines which could be used to treat Malaria and HIV.

Data has been shared across the world and rapid clinical trials have tested the efficacy of new drugs. Biological and epidemiological science will never be the same again.

2021 CHRISTMAS LECTURES supporters