Launched in 1979, the King Faisal Prize (KFP) recognizes the outstanding works of individuals and institutions in five major categories; Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, Medicine, and Science. The Prize selection committees include more than 40 specialists, scientists, and public figures, from 26 different countries to examine the nominees’ works and select the laureates.
Prof Sarah Gilbert became the Oxford Project Leader for ‘ChAdOx1 nCoV-19’, a vaccine against COVID-19. This vaccine, tested by the University of Oxford in clinical trials of over 23,000 people in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, is now in use in many countries around the world in the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the novel method to develop this vaccine, Prof Gilbert and the team genetically modified a weakened version of a common virus causing cold in chimpanzees to be injected into humans without causing an infection. While entering the body cells, the virus uses a genetic code to produce the specific surface spike protein of the coronavirus, which induces an immune response and prepares the immune system to attack the coronavirus when it infects the body.
Prof Gilbert said: ‘It is a great honour to receive this award. The creation and development of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine came after I had worked in this field for many years, learning how to move quickly from a concept to a licensed vaccine, which involves many steps along the way. With a great team at Oxford, we developed a ‘vaccine for the world’ which is now being used to save lives in many countries, which was our goal from the very beginning.’