Blog 03 – Progress in Changing Times: An Update from Dr Jordan Fletcher, Rosa’s Principal Scientist.
I am writing this blog post from home, in the middle of the day, on a Wednesday. We have just finished our routine morning Zoom catchup with the rest of my colleagues here at Rosa, some of whom I have not seen in person since March. Indeed, we have two interns, Eleanor and Josh, who have joined us and been busily working away, who I have never met in person. Just a few months ago, this “new normal” way of working would have scarcely been imaginable.
As with everyone else, we here at Rosa have felt the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic which has required us to make a number of adaptions to how we go about our business, both as a company and as individuals in our own lives too.
In the early days of the pandemic’s emergence in Britain, there was a great deal of uncertainty about how businesses could continue to operate. Like many other fledgeling companies, we opted to enter a period of furlough to help mitigate the impacts on materials and facilities that are key to our R&D efforts. This effectively placed the company in a short period of stasis but enabled us to re-emerge into a landscape where the future was a little more certain, and the fabric of a “new normal” way of going about life was a little clearer.
Like much of the rest of the country, the way in which we now work has significantly changed and is likely to remain so for the medium term at least. All our desk and non-laboratory work is now conducted entirely from home. Zoom video conferencing as a way of keeping abreast of what the team is doing is de rigueur. This new routine has affected each of us in different ways. Both Andy (our CEO) and Tania (our data scientist and machine learning guru, who’ll be penning our next blog) carry out most of their day-to-day tasks at their desks. For them, the change of scenery – whilst certainly not ideal – allows them to continue much of what they would ordinarily do, unhindered. For Myself (Principal Scientist), and Arne (Senior Scientist), as well as Ulrike (Senior Scientist, who joined the team in early July), this period ahead offers more challenges, for the simple reason that our work relies primarily on the facilities and equipment on the bench in our Lab at Unit DX. We plainly cannot do this from home. This ability to get back into the lab and to generate that raw data that ultimately feeds the development of our platform and our company’s progress is vital.
To minimise the risk of infection or asymptomatic spreading of the virus between ourselves, and with other building users, we now have in place detailed policies and risk-minimisation strategies to ensure we can continue to operate as safely as possible. These measures are complementary and dovetail with those put in place across the broader UnitDX community. Despite the recent emergence of a “new-normal” however, the situation will remain fluid and we will continue to monitor and to follow PHE advice, and adapt our responses accordingly.
From a personal perspective, this has been, and remains, a challenging time too. All of us at Rosa have parents who are old, and a few of us are lucky enough to have grandparents in their lives who are even older and thus even more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19. We are naturally worried about these people and the effects of the virus on the broader community.
There remains much to be hopeful about, however. The last 6 months have seen an unmatched collaborative effort from the World’s Scientific and Medical communities to gain a better understanding of the virus and to improve treatments to the benefit of those most suffering. Right now, there are twenty-four different candidates undergoing human clinical trial as vaccines, two of which are have entered Phase III. The speed at which this has occurred is unprecedented, and early results – such as those released by the team from Oxford – are encouraging. This raises hope that in the not-too-distant future we’ll be able to put this virus behind us. Until that time though, we are pressing ahead as best we can, conducting research and producing data under the auspices of the “new normal”. This virus reminds us how little we still know about biology and how vital strong biotech and life science communities (including Rosa and the rest of Unit DX) are to the UK and rest of the world.
From myself, and everyone else here at Rosa, we wish you all the very best for the period ahead as we continue to chart a path through it.