Our Best Hope For A Vaccine: Two Recently-Divorced Virologists Who “Swore They’d Never Do This Again”

Tim Sniffen
5 min readNov 24, 2020

COVID is surging and the race towards a vaccine has never been more urgent. While labs around the world make continuing progress, the worldwide medical community agrees our best chance for a solution rests with two independent researchers: Robert Shearing and Linda Shearing-Davis, long considered the foremost experts on infectious disease, married until very recently.

AP spoke with the team outside their facility in Atlanta, GA.

AP: When did you first learn about COVID?

LINDA: We were literally walking out of the courthouse. I had planned a big trip to Tahoe.

ROB: I was about to start the Appalachian Trail.

LINDA: [under breath] again.

ROB: I was doing it this time.

LINDA: There had been whispers in the pathology community about a new threat; I had no idea it would be this serious. A friend of ours texted: “We really need you on this one.”

AP: Do you recall your reaction?

LINDA: Oh yeah. I screamed “ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME” at the sky — then I threw my phone.

ROB: At me. You threw it at me.

LINDA: I threw it at a fountain, actually, Rob, but your stupid face was in the way.

AP: Did you begin work together immediately?

ROB: [Unhinged laughter.]

LINDA: NO… god, no.

ROB: Yeah, no. We imagined working separately would be… best for everyone.

LINDA: But after a series of collaborators…

ROB: You had that Dutch guy.

LINDA: So chatty. And you had the genius-grant winner —

ROB: — who did his best thinking while, get this, dancing.

LINDA: You weren’t threatened by his chest?

ROB: No! Why would — [to AP] I was not threatened by his chest.

LINDA: So after all these people, we realized… [exasperated exhale].

ROB: We work best together.

Tim Sniffen

Writing: Work In Progress on Showtime, The New Yorker, NPR’s Live From Here, Hello From The Magic Tavern, McSweeney’s, Jackbox Games | Twitter @MisterSniffen