Dr Sarah Pitt, virologist and biomedical scientist at the University of Brighton, said: “What has happened is an absolute tragedy and totally heart breaking.
“I’m just as upset as everyone else but it is heartening to see how people have pulled together and how the best minds in the country and the world have pooled their expertise to make a global effort get on top of this disease and to help each other by sharing information. This degree of sharing doesn’t always happen as freely as it is happening now.”
Dr Pitt, a Fellow of the Institute of Biomedical Science, in an interview on BBC Radio Sussex, said there was “still a long way to go” in the search for effective treatment and a vaccine but she listed three milestones that have made her proud.
“The first is how we developed the first test for the virus. It was developed in a phenomenally short amount of time. This is something that has largely been forgotten because events have happened so quickly but, if you remember, Chinese scientists published information about the virus just before Christmas and within a few weeks, in January, we had this lab test. Developing a really reliable lab test for a brand new virus normally takes months if not years but people worked really well together across the whole of Europe to get this test up and running.”
The second was how quickly Oxford University scientists have developed a vaccine: “Again, this is something that normally takes years. They have now conducted the safety testing and have reached the stage where they are looking for volunteers to take part in the clinical trials.