Going viral: How Covid changed science forever – The perfect storm (2021)

Jonathan Van-Tam

Jonathan Van-Tam is joined by leading experts to reveal the secrets of contagion and the mathematics of disease.

Watch time: 59:13

Lecture 2 – The Perfect Storm

Jonathan Van-Tam uncovers what drives a virus to world domination, and reveals how maths may be the secret weapon to thwart it.

Joined by airborne infection expert Cath Noakes and mathematician Julia Gog, the team will face the disgusting fallout of a super-sneeze, reveal the shocking invisible forces inside our masks, and unravel the mathematical models of contagion with a gigantic game of lucky dip.

In this lecture, no science is off the table. From microbiology to engineering, the Covid-19 pandemic has pooled the talent of scientists in every discipline to work together in ways never seen before.

Can the audience be the scientific heroes of the hour and crack the riddle at the end of the show?


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