UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


COVID-19: UCL academics mobilise to provide critical advice and expert comment

13 March 2020

As coronavirus spreads around the world, UCL experts are taking a prominent role in advancing public knowledge about the virus by advising world leaders, providing expert comment in the media and urgently researching new ways of tackling COVID-19.

    Top row (l-r): Professor Martina Micheletti, Professor David Alexander, Dr Jennifer Rohn, Professor Francois Balloux, Professor Rachel McKendry, Professor Judith Breuer. Bottom row (l-r): Professor Susan Michie, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Professor

A key strength of the UCL community is its ability to work across disciplines and with colleagues, partners and industry to help address the biggest challenges facing the world today.

UCL researchers are working in the vanguard of helping find cure, improving diagnosis and are advising Government here in the UK and globally. In addition, they are helping to inform public knowledge by providing expert comment on issues as varied as predictions on virus spread, panic buying and stockpiling, broadband provision, and the economic and political impact of the pandemic.

Professor Judith Breuer (UCL Division of Infection & Immunity) is advising the Government on the use of viral genomics to help control the outbreak, and Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) is advising the UK government-convened advisory group, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behavioural Science (SPI-B): 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID19).

Professor Rachel McKendry (London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL and i-sense) and Professor Ingemar Cox (UCL Computer Science) are leading a team developing rapid tests and tracking systems for COVID-19 in collaboration with the World Health Organization, Public Health England and Africa CDC, while Professor Martina Micheletti (UCL Biochemical Engineering) is working with Oxford colleagues to develop a potential vaccine.

Others at UCL are working on monitoring people who have been tested, predicting the outbreak’s future, and developing digital platforms for community-based care.

Here in UCL in the Media, we feature the work of UCL colleagues who are providing critical advice and expert comment to world leaders and the public on COVID-19 and its impact through numerous appearances on TV, radio, print and online news sources:

  • Coronavirus “likely to be here to stay” COVID-19 coronavirus is likely to remain in the population in the long-term, but fatalities are expected to go down as an increasing proportion of the population builds up immunity to the virus, explains Professor Francois Balloux (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). (9 March 2020) Read: Telegraph (£) 
  • Did coronavirus jump from animals to people? Professor Kate Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) comments on the likelihood of bats being the original source of COVID-19 coronavirus, as well as discussing what might explain the rise in infectious diseases coming from animals more generally. (25 February 2020) Read: BBC News 
  • UK not prepared for a pandemic Public Health England would be overrun if the COVID-19 coronavirus reached pandemic levels, especially as most factories for crucial supplies are in China or Southeast Asia, explains Dr Gordon Woo (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction). (17 February 2020) Read: Times (£) 
  • Coronavirus not far off becoming a pandemic “The 2019-nCov coronavirus outbreak has already surpassed its cousin Sars in terms of the number of cases confirmed,” explains Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine) who argues the outbreak is close to being declared a pandemic. (5 February 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Coronavirus prevention must learn SARS lessons “Several unique opportunities to perform studies and evaluations of a range of therapeutic and preventive interventions at the peak of the SARS and MERS outbreaks were lost due to delays,” explains Professor Ali Zumla (UCL Infection & Immunity). (30 January 2020) Read: Globe & Mail 



  • Top row (l-r): Professor Martina Micheletti, Professor David Alexander, Dr Jennifer Rohn, Professor Francois Balloux, Professor Rachel McKendry, Professor Judith Breuer. Bottom row (l-r): Professor Susan Michie, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Professor Christina Pagel, Professor Helene Joffe, Professor Rose Luckin, Dr Brian Klaas