Deadline extended: Biopharma's collective memory of COVID—in photographs

We recently received feedback that people have been busy with ASCO and BIO and need more time to search their photo libraries to find the best pandemic stories to tell. We heard you. Fierce Pharma is now extending the deadline for photo submissions to July 5.

The U.S. public health emergency for COVID-19 officially ends today, May 11. Before that, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently removed the disease’s status as a "public health emergency of international concern" more than three years after the agency’s original declaration.

The number three bears a spiritual significance, as it’s frequently incorporated in symbols that indicate life, harmony and wholeness in many cultures and religions. Now, it’s time to look back at what we all went through—not just to keep us vigilant about the next potential pandemic but also as part of a search for closure.

With nearly 7 million lives lost to the coronavirus, it’s important, as WHO’s technical lead on COVID Maria Van Kerkhove has said, to not forget those pyres and the graves that were dug. But there should be a great sense of accomplishment watching how vaccines and therapeutics led the world to this milestone.

It’s perhaps equally meaningful to document and examine how the pandemic reshaped the biopharma industry—and the people working in it—for future generations.

So, Fierce Pharma is now asking you, the dedicated employees working in the biopharma industry, to tell your stories of the pandemic—in photographs—and together contribute to the industry’s collective memory of COVID.

Consider it biopharma’s COVID yearbook, only this one will hopefully be published just once. Let it serve as a reminder of what the life science community can achieve when all its members put their heads together.

Why pictures?

I’m going to borrow a paragraph from “Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering,” in which scholar and author Marita Sturken examined the relationship of photos, public crises and a nation’s collective memory.

“The camera image is a technology of memory, a mechanism through which one can construct the past and situate it in the present. Images have the capacity to create, interfere with, and trouble the memories we hold as individuals and as a nation. They can lend shape to histories and personal stories, often providing the material evidence on which claims of truth are based, yet they also possess the capacity to capture the unattainable.”

For this project, we ask you to submit clear photos (no watermarks) along with a short description (up to 300 words) about your images to [email protected].

The description should include the basic who, where and when, plus any details that are relevant to the photos. Please also provide the information of the submitter including name, affiliation and contact information. Fierce may reach out to you later.

We’re looking for photos that tell a story. The images can depict a late night at the lab, a weeklong quarantine at a drug manufacturing plant or any other subjects that you deem memorable even outside your usual workplaces.

All images are welcome—it doesn’t have to be working on a COVID product—as long as they’re related to biopharma’s pandemic response and operations.

The deadline for submissions is now July 5. Fierce will publish selected photos this summer. Please make sure that you either own the photo or have permission to allow Fierce to publish it. No AI-made images, please.

To help kick things off, I’m going to share a little story of mine.

I was back in my hometown, a Chinese coastal city called Yantai, when COVID hit. The city gave birth to American magazine mogul Henry Luce, and it’s also home to RemeGen, which made a name during the pandemic by selling its antibody-drug conjugate to none other than Seagen in a $2.6 billion deal.


It was late January 2020. My friends at mainstream English media outlets were talking about how they got an alert from China’s Foreign Ministry and fled Wuhan the night before the city’s full lockdown. Yantai, like other cities in China, enacted tight anti-COVID measures immediately afterward.

The residential area that I lived in erected a sign forbidding any visitors or outside vehicles, although residents were allowed to roam about the city. It was in one of the buildings behind that sign that I wrote my first COVID story—about China repurposing AbbVie’s HIV combo Kaletra, which includes ritonavir, one of the two ingredients in Pfizer’s Paxlovid.

I’m sure you have better photos and more moving stories to tell. Again, please submit your images, along with a short description, to [email protected] by July 5. We look forward to reading and sharing your stories.