This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Melvin Sanicas, a physician and scientist who works as a medical director at Takeda.
Project Syndicate: “Virus research made significant strides last year,” you wrote in January, as did vaccines, owing to “global surveillance, cross-sector partnerships, and scientific advances.” With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting a race for a vaccine, are these factors being adequately leveraged? What weaknesses do you see in countries’ public-health responses? How might they be addressed?
Melvin Sanicas: Two possible vaccines – Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccine and CanSino’s non-replicating vector-based vaccine – entered Phase 1 clinical trials in mid-March, less than two months after the first genetic sequences of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, were released. That speed is unprecedented, and it would not have been possible, if researchers had not shared that genetic information very early.
Moreover, as far back as mid-January, the World Health Organization published a protocol created by German researchers on how to manufacture tests for COVID-19. This highlights the way knowledge and information from one country or group of researchers is being harnessed to accelerate progress.
Nonetheless, while every country is doing the best it can for its citizens, the COVID-19 crisis has definitely exposed weaknesses in our health systems. And, given vast differences in the development level of various health systems, challenges vary by country. So, I can’t make a blanket recommendation.
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We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Sanicas's picks:
by Randy Ribay
This compelling work of fiction tells the story of a Filipino-American teenager, pulled between two cultures. I am not Fil-Am, but I have lived, worked, and studied in nine countries, and I can certainly relate to the protagonist. The last few chapters are truly beautifully written, and reading them made me miss my own home country.
The Irrational Ape: Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World
by David Robert Grimes
This book helps readers to understand the world we live in – including the rise of populism and anti-intellectualism and the decline of logical thinking – and underscores why scientists need to get better at communicating. Everyone should read this book before they are allowed to use social media.
by Steffanie Strathdee and Tom Patterson
This is a real-life medical thriller about a psychologist infected with one of the world’s deadliest antibiotic-resistant superbugs. He and his wife – an infectious disease epidemiologist – ultimately triumphed over the bacteria using an unconventional cure: a virus. It is a book about science, hope, and perseverance – exactly what the world needs right now.
From the PS Archive
Sanicas recommends steps to end the Yellow Fever outbreak and prevent similar epidemics in the future. Read more.
Sanicas calls on the international community to do more to promote maternal immunization and breastfeeding – the two best ways to reduce infant mortality. Read more.
Around the web
In an animated TED-Ed lesson, Sanicas explains why TB is the world’s most infectious disease, and how medical advancements are improving treatment. Watch the video.
In another TED-Ed lesson, Sanicas examines how meningitis affects our bodies – and why it is so dangerous. Watch the video.