CARLSBAD — The world’s slow initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a much-needed investment in scientific research to minimize the effects of outbreaks. Now, cities and private organizations are collaborating locally and globally to make up for lost time.
Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Director of Research and Development, Dr. Uma Lakshmipathy, said stronger public-private partnerships will help maximize the resources needed to fight the virus and other diseases.
“The world was largely unprepared, and it took a while for everyone to understand the magnitude or seriousness of this,” Lakshmipathy said. “But hindsight is 20/20. This mandates greater investment in scientific research to enable scientists across the globe to do their due diligence and develop new vaccines and front line, novel therapies.”
Thermo Fisher now dedicates several locations across the country to critical projects, such as the production of their FDA-approved COVID-19 tests. In Carlsbad, employees focus on manufacturing the tests, which are later distributed to qualified testing centers, such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics.
As a hub for biotech companies, one of the City of Carlsbad’s responses to COVID-19 has been to serve as a bridge between local researchers and available government resources. The city has been in contact with 130 biotech companies in Carlsbad since March, according to Councilwoman Cori Schumacher.
“With a public health event of this size, the local government needs to collaborate with our biotech companies by connecting them to state and national resources,” Schumacher said. “A regional, bottom-up approach would be incredibly helpful in mobilizing resources for local biotech companies and ensuring organized, expedited delivery of essential products.”
Carlsbad aims to provide communities and first responders with a growing number of products, as scientists continue developing tests and treatments.
As Thermo Fisher becomes a leader in testing, many of its employees’ jobs are deemed essential to carrying out the collaborative effort of fighting the virus. Staff scientist Dr. Grace Zhang Li is one such employee.
“Each scientist has technical expertise, and we each play a part,” Li said. “This is a new virus, so the scientific field is understanding more every day. It’s really important for our business and for our continued service to this whole community.”
For scientists, combating the pandemic behind the scenes is a gradual, long-term process — typically requiring years of rigorous clinical trials before a new drug is released.
According to Lakshmipathy, there’s still no cure for COVID-19, but the number of treatments and vaccines currently being tested continues to grow.
“This is an awakening that truth matters, collaboration is important and there should be adequate funding for scientific advancements to be made,” she said. “Events like this reiterates these fundamental facts and restores our reliance on fact-based science. It’s not a frivolous luxury — it’s a necessity if you want to have better human life.”