2020 has been a challenging year. When anything like an existential threat descends on an organisation or a community, you never quite know where it’s going to lead. But ARMI was extremely good at mutually pulling behind each other, operating to the constraints we had and taking care of each other.
We were allowed to, through the nature of our work, continue working. We did so recognising the fact that this was a privilege, not a right, and we adhered very firmly to social distancing rules and restrictions. We were trusted to operate safely, and we prioritised the health of our staff and students. We’ve seen the benefit of that through the number of high profile outputs that have come out through the year despite the limitations. While we operated not firing on all cylinders, we kept the progress of research moving along.
The ARMI family has ridden the ups and downs throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, but I hope you felt engaged. We worked as hard as we possibly could to try and keep in touch with you all, and I hope you felt supported throughout the period. I have to take my hat off to our students, especially our Honours and Masters cohort this year. They have shown remarkable resilience in managing being in and then mostly out of the lab, and writing their theses with shortened timelines. They all produced high-quality talks. It is tough being in science, but even tougher with restrictions and in an environment where your mentors are unable to be around you.
Looking ahead, due to the hard work of everybody, I hope we return to a more sense of normality. ARMI tries strongly to build a community of like-minded researchers in a collaborative environment, but that isn’t easy to achieve when we’re all operating virtually. And so what I hope we all will do is take the achievements that we had through the year, through adversity, and turn that into a positive collaborative culture in 2021, and that we build some semblance of normalcy back into our lives.
With that, 2021 looks to be an exciting year for ARMI, and for stem cell and regenerative medicine research. While it’s still a technology that’s moving into the delivery phase, COVID-19 has revealed its flexibility as a platform. The ability to develop mini-organoid lungs for testing treatments for human diseases came into sharp focus. Furthermore, considering the tissue damage that occurs with COVID-19, I think regenerative medicine and stem cell approaches will play a more prominent role in orchestrating new treatments and repair. While COVID-19 is brought to heel potentially through one of our oldest technologies, vaccination, we hope the new ones will rise to meet the challenges that remain.
To end, I will say that scientists are incredibly flexible and adaptable people because they are used to change. That’s the expectation. We need to research the topics today that will change tomorrow. And so while I wasn’t surprised that we managed to adapt readily, I was proud that it was done so effectively and with such concern for each other.
I look forward to moving forward into the new year alongside brilliant scientists, but more importantly, amazing people.