Variants, Vaccines, and the Future of “Pandemic Tech”


March 2


06:00 pm - 08:00 pm

Event Category:

Naturalist PA

Click to Register:

The Austin Forum on Technology & Society

​Join the Austin Forum to learn how experts are using data, science, and technology in identifying and addressing pandemics.

One year ago, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic and the US declared a national emergency. In a year, we used technology to sequence the virus, develop tests, and create vaccines and treatments in record time and scale. However, the virus has also evolved — we’re not out of the woods yet.

In this presentation, UT Austin professors Ilya Finkelstein and colleagues will share exactly where the pandemic is in terms of vaccine and therapeutics, how science and technology have helped create the treatments rapidly (and their role in it!), how to understand effectiveness and risks, what virus variants we are seeing now, and what the next steps are in using data, science, and technology in identifying and addressing SARS-CoV-2 variants and future pandemics.

SARS-CoV-2 == virus

COVID-19 == disease caused by the virus

We welcome your participation! Please email us with your questions, answers and prognostications in advance.

Admission to the Austin Forum is always free.


About the Speakers:

Dr. Ilya Finkelstein is an Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to his position at UT-Austin, Dr. Finkelstein received a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Stanford University, and completed postdoctoral training at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Finkelstein’s lab is investigating the molecular mechanisms of genome maintenance, CRISPR biology, and epigenetic inheritance. In the past year, his group redirected their efforts to studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus with the twin goals of improving next-gen vaccines and creating new therapeutic avenues to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jason McLellan earned a BS in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Afterward, he obtained his PhD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Leahy. He then carried out postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Kwong and in collaboration with Dr. Barney Graham. In the Fall of 2013, he joined the faculty at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in the Department of Biochemistry, and in January 2018 he moved his laboratory to the University of Texas at Austin and became a member of the Department of Molecular Biosciences. His lab is interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms of host–pathogen interactions and leveraging the resulting information for the development of vaccines and immunotherapies.


As usual, the ‘doors will open’ at 6:00PM, but this means the Zoom session will ‘open’ so that people can begin connecting and testing their devices and settings (and asking us for help via email or the Slack workspace if needed).

We look forward to ’seeing’ you online. We will resume in-person meetings when it is safe, in conjunction with online meetings.

We welcome your participation! Please email us with your questions, answers, and prognostications in advance.

Admission to the Austin Forum monthly events is always free and open to everyone!

The Austin Forum accepts donations of used smart phones, tablets, and computers at all our events. Since the events are no online, please let us know via the ‘chat’ window during the event if you have devices to donate. All devices will have a factory reset and be set up as new by the team at Austin Pathways’ nationally-recognized “Unlocking the Connection” initiative, which will connect every public housing resident with a digital device, digital literacy, and a free or very low-cost internet connection. Your donated devices can change lives and help close Austin’s digital divide, thanks to Austin Pathways.

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