Current Date:May 6, 2021

Sarah Gilbert – The wonder woman behind the COVID 19 vaccine from Oxford

Dr. Sarah Gilbert, Prof. Oxford University

Dr. Sarah Gilbert, Prof. Oxford University

The world has never been so thrilled ever before when the news about the progress in COVID 19 vaccine development came out of Oxford University. The medical community as well as the laymen all over the world has been eagerly waiting for months to hear such news. When it came everyone was searching for the team and its leader from Oxford’s Jenner Institute. That superhero in a lab coat is none other than Professor Sarah Gilbert, (Professor of Vaccinology, Jenner Institute & Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine).

Although she is the most famous person and most sought after interviewee, she is away from the limelight she has always been. For the last 10 years, she has been working in the field of vaccine development. She is a person dedicated her life to developing and testing vaccines which will in the long run be able to save millions of lives. Her work majorly focusses on the development of vaccines which are made to induce T cell responses, by using antigens from malaria, and influenza. Several of her vaccines had passed clinical trials and the Covid19 vaccine adds another laurel to her accomplishments.

Growing up, Professor Gilbert has always been a high achiever. She was a straight a student during her schooldays and this academic excellence continued throughout her life as a student and researcher. She passed her 0 – level from Kettering high school and it is at this school she has developed a fondness for the biosciences. She completed her bachelor’s degree in biosciences from the University of East Anglia and her Ph.D. from Hull University. She has begun her professional career at Leicester bio Centre and a biotech company called Delta. In 2004 she became the Reader in Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and made Professor at the Jenner Institute in 2010.

One of Professor Gilbert’s stunning qualities is her ability to explain the science behind the vaccine to the public in an accessible and simple way. Her academic prowess and vaccine development experience has proved crucial in the development of the new COVID 19 vaccine, which is in the final stages of its development.

In this handout photo released by the University of Oxford samples from the coronavirus vaccine trials, from various parts of the country, are handled inside the Oxford Vaccine Group laboratory in Oxford, England Thursday, June 25, 2020. Scientists at Oxford University say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot. In research published Monday, July 20, 2020, in the journal Lancet, scientists said that they found their experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55. (John Cairns, University of Oxford via AP)

Professor Gilbert was influential in the research, development, and testing of the universal flu vaccine, which is totally different from the conventional flu vaccines. Instead of the production of antibodies, it triggers the immune system to create T cells that are specific for different diseases. Her research proved that the vaccination for many diseases including Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Nipah, and Rift valley disease.

She has been at the forefront of vaccine development for the current COVID 19 pandemic outbreak. Right now the vaccine is in its testing phase and we are not really sure about the fact that whether it will prevent the COVID 19 virus getting activated in a person’s body. But according to the reports, it is a giant leap in the research to find the COVID 19 vaccine at a reduced timeframe. Gilbert and co-authors published the results of the early trials in the medical journal, The Lancet, on July 20, titled “Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: a preliminary report of a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomized controlled trial”. According to them the vaccine had induced an immune response in a candidate and proved that it is safe to use in human beings.

Professor Sarah Gilbert’s achievement at this point in time has brought new hope for researchers and scientists, especially women researchers all over the world. The world is curiously waiting for more updates from Dr. Sarah and the team.


Author: Naveena Claris

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