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The Patient Is the Priority

The coronavirus is spreading. The UK has left the EU. In turbulent times, it can be easy to focus on the geopolitics or the “industry impact,” but I wanted to briefly reflect on how individuals may be feeling. 

At the time of writing, 425 people in China have died from coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection, as well as one person in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines. The WHO has praised the Chinese government’s response to the crisis but, amongst reports of censorship and police intimidation (1), others have questioned whether it was right to quarantine all residents of Wuhan with little time to buy food and medicine (2).

In Europe, although the Article 50 period is over, a great deal of uncertainty remains. How will the 67,000 people employed in the UK pharma industry be affected? And what about patients on both sides of the channel who rely on imported drugs? Even with “frictionless” trade, drug shortages are becoming increasingly common for parts of the UK (3). Much will depend on the decisions made by politicians, particularly in the UK, over the next 12 months (a scary thought for some). But while we’re on the subject of British politicians, I’d like to offer some rare praise.

Partly through a number of Government-led incentives, including the Catapult network (4), the UK has used its strong research base to build the largest cell and gene therapy ecosystem outside of the USA (4). Politicians should be commended for recognizing and acting on the potential of advanced medicines.

But as with Brexit and the coronavirus, the focus should not be on geopolitics, but on the potential impact on individuals – on patients. The possibility of treating or even curing previously untreatable, life-threatening conditions with cell and gene therapies is enormous and incredibly exciting. 

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  1. CHRD, “China: Protect Human Rights While Combatting Coronavirus Outbreak” (2020). Available at: 
  2. The Guardian, “China’s reaction to the coronavirus outbreak violates human rights” (2020). Available at: 
  3. BMJ, “No-deal Brexit may worsen drug shortages, pharmacists warn” (2019). Available at:
  4. J Strachan, “A British Success Story” (2019). Available at:
About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.


From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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