October 31, 2016
This post originally appeared in The Standard.
Britain has a proud history of changing the world through ingenuity and invention. The first vaccine ever developed, for smallpox, began with Edward Jenner’s famous experiments in Gloucestershire.
John Snow’s map of cholera outbreaks in Victorian London transformed how we respond to disease. And a self-taught carpenter and clockmaker from Yorkshire, John Harrison, revolutionised seafaring by solving the age-old problem of calculating longitude at sea.
These great scientific heroes came from every corner of the UK. And today, the world needs Britain’s leadership, intellectual firepower, and spirit of innovation more than ever. We face enormous challenges: from extreme poverty to a changing climate, to food insecurity and the unprecedented movement of people.
New challenges such as drug-resistant infections are emerging, threatening all of us with the awful prospect of essential antibiotics becoming ineffective, making even a simple infection potentially lethal.
And there is a very real chance that a more infectious epidemic than Ebola or Zika will emerge in the next 20 years. Diseases do not stop at international borders. We can’t build a wall to hold back the next epidemic. We need to tackle global problems at source.