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Infectious disease


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, true leaders emerge

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
April 25, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 16


Do you want to read something heartwarming? If so, I invite you to turn to page 37. In “Pitching In,” Senior Correspondent Linda Wang covers the acts of kindness and generosity of many of the American Chemical Society members and local sections that wanted to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are plenty of examples: The member who has been making face masks with leftover chemistry-themed cloth from the International Year of the Periodic Table. The local section that organized a food drive, exceeding its monthly target in just 1 day. The chemistry professor that is using his expertise in 3-D printing to produce protective face masks.

These stories are not just heartwarming. They are also inspiring and humbling. They represent the efforts of individuals within the close-knit community that is ACS—old friends and colleagues or simply chemists we may know from attending local section meetings or from exchanging a few words after a particularly good presentation during an ACS national meeting.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: it’s been humbling and uplifting to see how the scientific community has come together under one cause, with one goal—finding treatments and cures for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Last week I briefly mentioned that the top leaders of a number of drug companies had formed a consortium called COVID R&D. The organization’s goal, according to BioCentury, a publication serving the biopharma, investment, and public policy communities, is to “find the molecules with the greatest rationale for advancement into clinical trials, and put them into studies designed to yield the most meaningful results fastest.” Its mission is laudable, and the speed with which it came together is even more so, especially when one considers that its members represent in some cases competing pharmaceutical companies.

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This initiative comes down to the leaders involved and their understanding of the impact that the decisions they make may have on the path that this pandemic follows. We should be thankful to count these true leaders among the members of our community.

Another example of leadership in the face of the pandemic comes courtesy of the National Institutes of Health, which has launched a partnership involving several federal agencies and a long list of well-known pharma companies.

Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) is led by the foundation arm of the NIH, a nonprofit unit within the organization that already has experience leading public-private partnerships to tackle health challenges such as mosquito-borne diseases. One of the partnership’s most important roles will be to remove any hurdles to progress, like intellectual property matters, that have traditionally stood in the way of fast action. ACTIV’s other crucial role will be to determine screening criteria to be used to identify promising candidates to send for clinical trials as quickly as possible.

These are just some examples of people and organizations getting together to lead in the fight against COVID-19. These groups are not only collaborating but doing so with a real sense of urgency. And while they do this, they are also fighting for the reduction of red tape and to establish robust processes that allow a quicker response and improved preparedness. This is crucial work if individual nations around the world are going to have any chance of beating back pandemics like the one we are going through.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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