Many have been overwhelmed trying to understand their epidemic and combat it, and responding to media requests, especially from journalists outside of China, has not been a top priority.
|By Jon Cohen|
Gao oversees 2000 employees—one-fifth the staff size of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and he remains an active researcher himself. In January, he was part of a team that did the first isolation and sequencing of severe acute respiratory syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. He co-authored two widely read papers published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that provided some of the first detailed epidemiology and clinical features of the disease, and has published three more papers on COVID-19 in The Lancet.
His team also provided important data to a joint commission between Chinese researchers and a team of international scientists, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), that wrote a landmark report after touring the country to understand the response to the epidemic.
First trained as a veterinarian, Gao later earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Oxford and did postdocs there and at Harvard University, specializing in immunology and virology. His research specializes in viruses that have fragile lipid membranes called envelopes—a group that includes SARS-CoV-2—and how they enter cells and also move between species.
Gao answered Science’s questions over several days via text, voicemails, and phone conversations. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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