22 October 2020

Last month I was pleased to host the inaugural Brand Community Lecture Series in partnership with Murdoch University on their campus in Rockingham. I initiated this lecture series to enable the local community to hear from scientists and experts in their field on topics of interest to the community—important issues such as COVID-19. The inaugural Brand Community Lecture Series lecture was titled 'Understanding the immediate and long-term medical effects of COVID-19'. It was presented by inaugural guest speaker Professor Jeremy Nicholson, an internationally renowned scientist and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Health Sciences at Murdoch University in WA.

Professor Nicholson leads the Australian National Phenome Centre, an important centre of research and the only facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The phenome centre is a core platform in the Western Australian Health Translation Network. While led by Murdoch uni, it is a remarkable example of scientific collaboration that brings together all the Western Australian universities, major hospitals, medical research institutes and centres, including the Telethon Kids Institute, the Harry Perkins institute and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth. The research emanating from the Australian National Phenome Centre will revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of the most serious health challenges of our time, including COVID-19, cancer, obesity, autism and type 2 diabetes.

We were really lucky to have Professor Nicholson share his research and his thoughts on the current global pandemic. While only 40 people could attend the lecture in person, to ensure social distancing measures were observed, it was a sellout, and over 150 people tuned in to the lecture over the live stream. While it's not a happy topic to discuss, it was very evident that many people found the information from the professor interesting, forthright and clear.

Facts matter, and we must listen to the science. Entirely contrary to science are the bizarre conspiracy theories about the virus which have been allowed to flourish, where some extreme politicians and celebrities openly promote potentially harmful treatments for the disease by cherrypicking research and seeking to make their rudimentary investigations somehow the equivalent of decades of scientific research and practice. We were really lucky to hear from Professor Nicholson and to hear about the science that he has engaged in over decades and his personal experience of the disease that he himself contracted.

There will be more in this lecture series—of course there will. The next one will be on Thursday 5 November, entitled, 'Of microbes, mice and men'. Special guest speaker Professor Elaine Holmes will be discussing the importance of our gut bacteria in health and disease. Please get in contact with my office in Rockingham if you'd like to come along.