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Professor Sarah Gilbert in the NDM’s Jenner Institute had pioneered chimpanzee adenovirus-vectored vaccines against disease including influenza, tuberculosis and prostate cancer. Recently she showed that the ChAdOx1 vector can be used to make vaccines that are protective against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a coronavirus related to SARS-CoV-2 affecting camels and their human contacts. Professor Gilbert and Professor Adrian Hill (Director of the Jenner Institute) are co-founders of an Oxford University spin-out, Vaccitech, based on her viral-vectored vaccines.

In January 2020, Professor Gilbert adapted the ChAdOx1 vector to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and the NDM agreed to underwrite a £1M contact with an Italian contractor manufacturer, Advent and to accelerate GMP manufacturing of trial doses in its on Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility (led by Professor Cath Green). Animal studies in March 2020 in Rocky Mountain Laboratories in the USA and at the PHE in Porton Down funded by CEPI, UKRI and DHSC, showed the vaccine was safe and protective against virus in the lungs.

On 27th March, the Jenner team started recruitment of 510 human participants for a phase I/II trial; and on the 30th April, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford signed a deal for the global development and distribution of the vaccine.  Research Trials have continued in the UK, South Africa and Brazil under the leadership of Professor Andy Pollard, with immunological testing in the Jenner laboratories led by Professor Tess Lambe and Professor Gilbert. The NDM transferred the manufacturing processes, which had been led by Dr Sandy Douglas, to AstraZeneca.

250 Sarah Gilbert