Coronavirus: Who are Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance?

Two men have become a regular feature of the coronavirus crisis – flanking Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers tough news to the nation.

Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance were parachuted from behind-the-scenes advisory roles into the public eye in front of the TV cameras – proving that it’s the experts who are leading Britain’s response to a global pandemic.

So who are they?

Professor Chris Whitty

Right at the top of the tree of all science advisers is Professor Chris Whitty.

He is simultaneously England’s chief medical officer and the UK department of health’s top scientific adviser.

Luckily he is an epidemiologist – meaning his specialty is diseases.

Prof Whitty also has experience tackling a virus, having played a leading role advising on the UK response to the Ebola epidemic in 2014 as chief scientific adviser to the Department for International Development.

His career in Whitehall has spanned 11 years; he was previously interim chief scientific adviser to the UK government and got his current job in June 2019.

Outside politics, he’s a practicing consultant physician at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and University College London (UCL) Hospitals.

Sir Patrick Vallance

The other familiar face at the recent Downing Street news conference is Sir Patrick Vallance.

He’s the UK government’s chief scientific adviser – providing whatever is needed directly to the prime minister and cabinet.

His specialty is diseases in blood vessels and the biology of cells that line the interior surface of them.

Before joining Whitehall, Sir Patrick was president of research and development at pharmaceutical multinational GlaxoSmithKline from 2012-17, during which over 14 new medicines were approved for use worldwide for diseases ranging from cancer to asthma and HIV.

He’s also a professor – and has led the division of medicine at UCL.

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