Michael Levitt, a Nobel Laureate award winning scientist at Stanford University, who has been monitoring the pandemic since before it was international news, speaking about his experience on yesterday’s Roundtable session led by Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida:
“… Online with Governor DeSantis was my first interaction with Jay Battacharya and Martin Kulldorff. I have never met them personally but felt an immediate affinity. Interesting at age of 73 to lose all ones old friends but make many new ones.“
In an online Open Discussion of the Lindau Open Science Days Levitt said many things including:
Instead of a committee of scientists talking with each other to explore adequate solutions in a complex problem, one or two voices were relied upon which allowed economics and politics to dedicate the science. There was total panic from very prominent scientists; almost all of the dominant science including from World Health Organisation was wrong; scientists should have been sharing information and speaking with each other but instead views were corrupted by politics.
Viral cases and deaths follow a time trajectory, placing physicists and theoretical chemists who understand trajectories in a better position than Epidemiologists, to predict the course of epidemics. Epidemiologists do not need to “get things correct”, but rather to “prevent an epidemic”, meaning that if they predict something is going to be 100 times worse than the reality, that’s okay as it achieves their aim. They were just as wrong about Ebola and about Bird Flu… This pandemic is data driven and the data needs to be discussed intelligently, referring to a range of qualified disciplines.
Levitt’s personal and professional experiences in 2020 provide an excellent argument for public health teams reconfiguring to include disciplines which have previously not been involved with public health work.
Governor Ron DeSantis has been nicknamed “DeathSantis” by some for his policies relating to the pandemic response in Florida. This seems ironic to me, as a most unlikely Republican supporter, after listening to the Roundtable session he led two days ago with the following leading public health experts:
Dr Jay Bhattacharya : Professor of Medicine, Stanford University (also a PhD in Economics) – researches health in vulnerable populations and policies and programs designed to serve vulnerable populations.
Dr Martin Kulldorff : Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Biostatistician, Epidemiologist in Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics) – researches disease surveillance methods.
Dr Michael Levitt : Professor of Structural Biology, Stanford Medical School (2013 recipient of Nobel Prize in Chemistry) – develops computer based algorithms to build models of complex biological molecules. PhD from Cambridge and one of the first scientists to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus life cycle.
Link to the Roundtable chaired by Governor DeSantis : 24 September Virtual Roundtable With Leading Public Health Experts
Link to Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting : The Role of Science in Times of Crisis
Mainstream media should not be our main source of pandemic information. The financial interests of the UK Chief Scientific Advisor demonstrates that we also need to be aware of possible conflicts of interest in those leading political responses.