Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Patricia Falcone

Patricia Falcone

Deputy Director of Science and Technology

The COVID-19 Experiment

From the moment COVID-19 entered our vocabulary, we have all been a part of a global science experiment. Approaches to treatments, vaccines, and ways to work and learn have been tested and fine-tuned in real time with no one sure exactly how the experiment will conclude.

COVID-19 has affected the life of everyone on the planet. As a scientific leader at Lawrence Livermore, I am proud to introduce in this issue of Science and Technology Review the many ways the Laboratory research contributed to the fight to beat the pandemic. Future issues will highlight Livermore’s technology transfer efforts as well as our operational adaptations and resilience.

For Lawrence Livermore, I knew the key to meeting the COVID-19 challenges would be our tradition of working together in multi-discipline teams to achieve tangible outcomes as well as our storied history of integrating bioengineering, biotechnology, and biocomputational tool sets. In many ways, Livermore had been readying itself for such a grand challenge by building and improving detection systems and other precise instrumentation, and developing and employing advanced computational models and HPC resources.

This month’s feature, Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic, highlights Livermore research directed at understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and potential treatments for those infected. Our results are the outcome of multidisciplinary Laboratory teams in which each member is an important part of the effort. “Team science” is so much more than a catch phrase at Lawrence Livermore. It is quite simply the way we work, always. Team science is the key to our enduring success.

External research partnerships are highlighted as well. For example, rather than apply resources to designing or manufacturing unique COVID-19 testing swabs, we applied our testing and additive manufacturing expertise to confirm the best design. The value we place on partnerships manifests in research achievements as well as in technology transfer—translating early innovation into commercial products—for the COVID-19 fight, the focus of our next S&TR issue.

A critical element in Livermore’s ability to quickly address COVID-19 is our Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. We were able to tune the direction of two ongoing LDRD projects and to solicit proposals, review them, and approve a few new targeted projects. Over time, LDRD-supported research has advanced scientific discovery in new and beneficial directions and enabled the Laboratory to amass tools and capabilities that were able to support a response to this new challenge. For example, biotechnology and biodetection research initially proposed to meet Livermore’s mission to combat bioterrorism have been important components in identifying antiviral and antibody candidates for COVID-19 treatment.

Lawrence Livermore was built to address the most difficult and most important challenges to the nation. Stepping back for a moment from the experiment we have been living in, I am proud of the Laboratory’s contributions to the fight so far. As a laboratory, we will continue to understand more and to generate more questions. And I believe that a year from now, everyone at Livermore will feel satisfaction and gratification to have been a part of the ongoing fight against this pandemic.