Barely a week after the 48th AGM in March 2020 the whole of the UK went into lockdown, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the BMCS group have been living through a Chinese proverb, we have truly been living in interesting times.
I have been immensely impressed by the way in which the group has adapted and reacted to the rapidly evolving circumstances occurring in the wider society. Faced with tremendous uncertainties, we have nevertheless continued to drive forward with our many strands of activity, to the best of our collective abilities, demonstrating impressive flexibility, adaptability, and determination. Constrained by the pandemic, we have reformatted many of our longstanding meetings and continued to deliver a program of high-quality scientific events, educational support grants (ESG), and International Travel Prizes, under the most trying of external circumstances. Thank you to all my BMCS committee colleagues for this huge collective effort.
In response to the global pandemic situation, we took the decision to extend the deadline by which winners of 2020 International Travel Prizes should take up their prize until the end of 2021. We hope that the second half of the year will offer a realistic prospect for the resumption of some face-to-face meetings. Zoom, Teams, Meetings Now, GoToMeeting have served us well during the crisis, but feedback from delegates tells us that there is a strong appetite for face-to-face meetings. The group has experienced a significant reduction in revenue, but we have awarded 2021 Travel Prizes, albeit fewer in number than previously. The ESG have seen a significant reduction in the number of applications received, probably because of complete or partial closure of schools, but we have still been able to offer support to those applications that were received.
This year we face significant personnel changes in the committee. Elaine and Stuart will be stepping down from their long-held roles as Treasurer and Secretary respectively, and I’m sure that I speak for the whole of the committee when I say thank you for your many years of stalwart service and loyalty to the group. Replacing them, I would like to welcome Douglas as Treasurer and Nadia as Secretary. We will also be saying goodbye to Steve and Mihiro, who are stepping down from the committee, thank you for all your contributions towards the activities of the group. As mentioned in the previous report, Maggi will be stepping down from her secretariat position after the Cambridge Med Chem meeting in September, and I am happy to report that the near-Herculean task of identifying a successor is proceeding well.
The pandemic-related uncertainty will continue for some time to come, but the prospects for a return to normality are good. I reflect that, in the scant year since the last AGM, multiple vaccines against the virus have been developed, approved, and in this country delivered to more than 20 million people. Through the combined efforts of hundreds of medicinal chemists and biomedical scientists, several existing medicines have been repurposed for COVID therapy and have undoubtedly saved many lives. New drugs have been discovered and are entering clinical trials now. The speed of progress has been almost as bewildering as the effects of lockdown. In recognition of these combined efforts, we have decided to award the Malcolm Campbell Award this year not to an individual or a single team, but to all the British scientists involved in coronavirus research. We hope to present the award at the Cambridge Med Chem meeting in September, to someone we feel is qualified to represent the whole of the research community.
We look forward to a return to normality in 2022, but perhaps a new normality that blends the familiar from previous years with the opportunities that virtual media allow in terms of involvement of a wider number of delegates.
A C Williams, Hon. Chairman, BMCS