The UW Now Livestream with Thomas Friedrich, Professor of Pathobiological Sciences

American society may have closed down during the pandemic, but for Thomas Friedrich, the key to beating the disease lies in being open — not open for business but open for discovery.

“We put together a group of scientists to do what we call an open science response to the pandemic,” Friedrich says. “We want to find ways that scientists across institutions and across the world can collaborate to find the best vaccine, the best treatments, the best approaches, rather than competing with each other, which often has been the approach in the past.”

Researchers Working to Find Answers

Friedrich, a virologist in the UW’s School of Veterinary Medicine, has studied pathogens such as influenza and Zika in the past, and he’s part of a collection of researchers — 142 of them at 30 institutions — calling themselves the “CoVen.” They’re putting their skills to study coronavirus and sharing all they find, freely, among the entire group. During The UW Now Livestream event on April 28, Friedrich spoke with WFAA president and CEO Mike Knetter about the state of coronavirus vaccine research, which has been struggling to find answers. “So far, we don’t have solid data saying that any of the candidate treatments you may have heard about is effective,” he reported.

More than 1,300 UW alumni and friends tuned in for the livestream, and after delivering a half-hour presentation, Friedrich answered their questions. Much of his discussion was about the benefits of open science — sharing data and technique among different researchers in hopes of finding the best answers in the fastest way rather than competing for credit.

“We need to band together,” he says. “It’s all of us in humanity against the virus, so we need to pool our resources.”

The UW Now Livestream is itself a response to the pandemic. The UW Now had originally been planned as a series of events in cities across the United States. Instead, the programming is now offered via YouTube and will continue through the spring. The next event will be May 5 and will feature conversations with Professor Barbara Pinekenstein ’73, DNP, RN-BC, FAAN, of the UW School of Nursing and Derek Kindle, vice provost of enrollment management and acting director of student aid.