February 27, 2024 - 11:00am

Former Government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has joined the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), the ex-prime minister’s organisation has announced. Vallance has been appointed to the TBI’s “team of expert Strategic Counsellors”, alongside former chief of the defence staff General Sir Nick Carter.

The Institute’s statement claims that Vallance “brings significant expertise to TBI’s work on the transformative role science and technology can play for governments and societies around the world”.  The physician served as the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser from 2018 to 2023, presiding over the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He appeared in regular televised briefings alongside then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, and was thus considered a key architect of Britain’s lockdown policy.

Vallance will reportedly “provide strategic advice and guidance to TBI’s global policy work”, while Blair himself says that “the opportunities provided by advances in science and technology will be enhanced enormously by [his] contributions.” 

Having initially considered a “herd immunity” approach to managing the virus, Vallance quickly became a proponent of further Government restrictions, and at the Covid inquiry last year suggested that the UK should have gone into lockdown earlier. He has cited the introduction of a vaccine as “chang[ing] the course of the pandemic”, though received criticism in late-2020 when it was revealed that he had a £600,000 shareholding in GlaxoSmithKline, a firm contracted to develop Covid vaccines for the Government. 

Earlier this month, Vallance told a health commission that “you can’t innovate without taking risks” and that the NHS’s approach to technological advances is “too conservative”. Hearings at the Covid inquiry last year drew from the scientist’s private diary entries, in which he criticised Johnson’s “impossible flip-flopping” when responding to the pandemic as Prime Minister. He also described the atmosphere within 10 Downing Street as “chaos”, and claimed that ministers used scientists as “human shields”. 

An UnHerd investigation published in August of last year revealed the inner workings of the TBI, which is partially funded by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison. Ellison purchased digital health records company Cerner for $28 billion, while the TBI has previously advocated selling health records to fund scientific research. 

In September, former Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin joined the Institute in an advisory role. According to its website, the TBI provides guidance for over 30 governments, including Saudi Arabia under a £9 million deal between the two parties. Of its $81 million turnover in 2021, $79.4 million was from “government advisory work”.

Vallance was knighted in 2019, then received into the Order of the Bath in 2022 for “services to science in government”. Announcing his intention to leave his Government role two years ago, he said that his departure was an “important way to ensure independence”. 

is UnHerd’s Assistant Editor, Newsroom.