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Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: Fighting Back (S2021EP3 BBC Four Thurs 30 Dec 2021)

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Fighting Back: Professor Jonathan Van-Tam explores the inner workings of vaccines to reveal how these medical marvels can help win the war on viruses and potentially fight diseases such as cancer. Joined by vaccine scientist Professor Teresa Lambe and microbiologist Professor Sharon Peacock, the team peel away the scabs of smallpox and inject the puss of a milkmaid to uncover the key milestones that led to vaccines over 200 years ago. Science has not stopped since. The Covid-19 vaccines are a triumph, but can the audience take them a step further? Can they use a vaccine to blow up cancer cells on the lecture theatre floor?

Viruses have a trick up their sleeve. They can mutate. A pack of dastardly dogs help unlock the secrets of variants, from Alpha to Omicron, but scientists are one step ahead. The pandemic has pushed the speed and scale of genetic sequencing technology to unprecedented levels and we can crack the virus’s genetic code to watch it evolve in near-real time. It’s a crucial tool to stay on top of Covid-19. Combined with solutions from nature, from fruit bats to furry llamas, science may never be the same again.

Airdate: Thurs 30 Dec 2021 at 20:00 on BBC Four

Season 2021 Episode 3

Each year a renowned name in the world of education leads a series of televised lectures all around one topic.