Virus research chief dedicates royal honour to centre’s work

Professor Massimo Palmarini leads the Medical Research Council-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research.

Professor Massimo Palmarini
Professor Massimo Palmarini

The director of a leading virus research centre has said his honorary OBE is a “reflection on the depth and the broad work we’ve done” during the pandemic.

Professor Massimo Palmarini leads the Medical Research Council-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), based in the Sir Michael Stoker Building at the Garscube campus.

He has been made an honorary OBE – because he is not a British citizen – for services to public health in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Prof Palmarini was quick to highlight he is just “representing” the centre, telling the PA news agency: “It’s not about me… it’s really a reflection of the work of the centre.

“As director I represent the CVR in these last years and especially during the Covid response.

“I don’t know very well the system… it’s a British tradition, I’ve been living here for a long time so it’s good to be recognised in this way.

“It’s more something that represents the work of the people in the centre.”

However Prof Palmarini said he had kept quiet about the award, only telling “my mum and my wife and my most strict collaborators” after receiving the news.

Earlier this year, PA was given exclusive access to a containment level three (CL3) laboratory in the centre – named after Professor Richard Elliott who worked in the virology unit and died just as the lab opened in 2015.

Prof Palmarini said at the time that the team’s work on coronavirus variants was “challenging in a lot of ways” but also “rewarding for a scientist”.

After being honoured by the Queen, he said: “I feel proud of the CVR, I think it is a reflection on the depth and the broad work we’ve done that we’ve been sort of fighting in so many areas.

“From developing tools and reagents for the scientific community making fundamental discoveries on the virus to support clinical studies, to support clinical trials, in developing bioinformatics tools, and studying variants.

“It’s a whole combination of activities that the centre has undertaken and I think that the international and national relevance has obviously grown substantially in the last year and with Covid we were sort of ready to act very quickly.

“I think we made a lot of inroads on studying variants and having the experimental systems to study the variants that are emerging continuously and tracking them as well.

“We work with national consortia in developing tools that can track these variants very quickly and scientists can interrogate the viral sequences that there are globally, and also on determining the efficacy of vaccines against the new variants.

“Something that will come in the next weeks and months, we’ll have the ability to investigate the single mutations that are present in these variants and see their biological effect so that we can be proactively ready to detect them earlier on as they emerge.”

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