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Leicester doctor and researcher listed in Forbes ‘30 under 30’

An infectious diseases doctor at Leicester’s Hospitals has been listed as one of Forbes’ ‘30 under 30’ in Europe in the field of Science and Healthcare.

Dr Daniel Pan, who is also a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Fellow at the University of Leicester, was listed due to his clinical and academic contributions to the COVID-19 pandemic on a local, national and international level.

Working in infectious diseases, Dr Pan was one of the doctors to receive and manage the first patients in Leicester with COVID-19. Due to Leicester’s ethnically diverse population, it became clear to him and his colleagues that many of the sickest patients in the first wave were from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

As part of a research group led by Dr Manish Pareek, Dr Pan was the first to raise this concern in scientific journals. The group most notably conducted a huge data analysis of over 18 million patients, demonstrating that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority groups was mainly due to a higher risk of being infected, rather than developing more severe disease once infected. This work, published in EClinical Medicine by The Lancet, was referenced in the House of Commons last year.  

Dr Pan is now working with Dr Pareek, Dr Caroline Williams and Professor Mike Barer at the University of Leicester to detect COVID-19 in the exhaled breath of infected patients using modified facemasks, building on previous research into tuberculosis. Initial findings published in the Journal of Infection have shown that it is possible to detect exhaled virus in the breath of hospitalised patients with COVID-19, that the highest amounts of virus detected were early on in disease, and that those with more severe disease were more likely to have higher amounts of the virus in the mask.

He said: “We have good tools to diagnose COVID-19 but we still can't really tell whether or not someone is infectious to others. This is particularly important because not everyone who is infected is necessarily contagious during the whole period of illness.”

In Leicester, we have shown that it is possible to detect exhaled virus of infected patients using modified facemasks. If the virus is present in people’s exhalations it’s possible that those people are very infectious. If this is true, our method of virus detection could help control the spread of the virus in the months and years to come.”

Over the last year, Dr Pan has published around 25 scientific papers on COVID-19, as well as working on the wards at Leicester’s Hospitals, where he has been coordinating the recruitment of patients to the RECOVERY trial at Leicester Royal Infirmary. 

He said: “COVID-19 has helped me focus my efforts into one area of research, on which I will be hoping to develop my expertise in the future. I’ve never felt that my work has mattered more than now, and I aim to continue that.”

He continued: “I am surprised and honoured to be named on the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ in Europe list. I’m still early on in my research career and the work I have produced to date has very much been a team effort. I am fortunate to work with some very eminent researchers, who have been very supportive. The award really is a reflection of the great research being done in Leicester as a whole.”

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