Life Science Big science: The 10 people behind the most significant science stories of 2020
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Big science: The 10 people behind the most significant science stories of 2020

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In a year where science and medical research has been under the microscope, prestigious journal Nature has revealed its list of 10 people who shaped 2020’s biggest science stories.

From virologists and vaccine researchers to an Antipodean prime minister, the list is a who’s who of leaders from a range of fields.

COVID-19 was the driver for many of this year’s biggest science stories, with the pandemic killing more than 1.5 million people globally and prompting unprecedented efforts by researchers and public-health experts.

“Together with their colleagues, these individuals had important roles in a range of stories, from sequencing the deadly coronavirus, to leading the quest for a COVID vaccine, to keeping researchers safe in a pioneering Arctic climate mission,” said Nature‘s Rich Monastersky.

“Taken together, the stories of these ten people illuminate some of the greatest scientific and societal challenges the world has faced this year.”

Top 10 people behind the science stories of 2020

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general 

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has helped rally nations to respond to COVID.

The WHO boss rallied nations to respond to the threat of the new coronavirus while navigating intense criticism over the agency’s handling of the crisis.

Li Lanjuan, epidemiologist 

Li Lanjuan recognised the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan and convinced the central government to lock down the city before a national holiday, helping to slow the virus’s spread.

Gonzalo Moratorio, virologist

Uruguayan virologist Gonzalo Moratorio worked with colleagues to develop diagnostic tests for the virus, which helped his country to evade a cascade of infections and deaths.

Kathrin Jansen, vaccine researcher

Head of vaccine research and development at US drug firm Pfizer, Dr Jansen led a team that brought the world hope by expediting a clinically successful vaccine through trials in a record-setting 210 days.

Zhang Yongzhen, virologist 

In the first days of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, virologist Zhang Yongzhen and his team rapidly determined the RNA sequence of the virus and swiftly released the information.

Anthony Fauci, US infectious diseases expert 

The director of the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Fauci became the public face of the US government’s coronavirus response, providing reputable information to a concerned population while challenging misinformation spread by President Donald Trump.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand PM 

Jacinda Ardern has won acclaim for her handling of the pandemic. Photo: Getty

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won international praise for her quick and decisive action that kept her country relatively safe from the coronavirus while also maintaining the trust of citizens.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, cosmologist 

US cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein worked with others to shut down science for a day in June to raise awareness of systemic anti-Black racism in science institutions after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police.

Adi Utarini, public-health researcher

Indonesian public-health researcher Adi Utarini helped lead a pioneering trial to combat dengue infections using mosquitoes bred to block transmission of the virus responsible for the disease.

Verena Mohaupt, Arctic mission hero

The German logistics chief for an international Arctic mission, Verena Mohaupt worked to keep roughly 300 researchers safe from polar bears, extreme cold and themselves while their ship was locked in sea ice for a year.

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