Professor Gilbert has 25 years of experience in the development of vaccines against malaria, influenza and emerging and re-emerging viral pathogens, including Lassa, Nipah and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). In 2018 she began preparing for “Disease X”, the World Health Organisation’s term for a hypothetical, unknown pathogen that could cause a future epidemic. This preparation proved essential when, in January 2020, reports from China alerted the world to a new viral threat.
The genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was released on 11 January and later that same day, Professor Gilbert and her team began designing Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine: ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Underpinned by Professor Gilbert’s research into vaccines that work by inducing strong and protective T cell responses, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 became the first COVID-19 vaccine to enter into Phase III clinical trials. Professor Gilbert is currently working with the Oxford Vaccine Group, teams within the Jenner Institute and a network of international collaborators to test its efficacy in over 20,000 trial participants around the world.