The Long and the Short of COVID-19: Presented by Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, 2021

Plenary Talk: “The Long and the Short of COVID-19”, IDEAL HUB Annual Forum 2021

‘Though we did not at first realize the scope of the problem, SARS-CoV- is unlike any virus we’ve had to deal with. At first, though we were saying ‘it’s not the influenza’, the medical and public health approach was more-or-less grounded in the idea that ‘this is a bad ’flu. The fact that, unlike influenza in humans, this virus is also disseminated around the body in the blood, took a while to emerge, as did the reality that a major problem in COVID-19 is the formation of large and small clots that can cause heart attacks, strokes and block gaseous exchange in the lung. The fact that, within a year, we had outstanding vaccines to limit the toll of this disease is a major tribute to modern science. But it’s increasingly clear that the way this virus is changing to become more infectious is beyond our prior experience. We’ll focus on the nature of the disease what’s happening now and where this may be going. We are living with a fluid situation, and there are no certainties.’

Peter Doherty shared the 1996 Nobel Medicine Prize with Swiss colleague Rolf Zinkernagel, for their discoveries about transplantation and “killer” T cell-mediated immunity, an understanding that is currently translating into new cancer treatments. The first veterinarian to win a Nobel, he was Australian of the Year in 1997. Still active in research on immunity to influenza, he commutes between St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis and the Peter Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne, where he now spends most of his professional time.