The University of Oxford has received a £3.33 million donation from the Saïd family, enabling it to secure a professorship in vaccinology for the future.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the inaugural post holder, will continue her research in the field, with the donation also helping to keep Oxford at the forefront of vaccine development.
According to the university’s Development Office, 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.
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, this became the first Covid-19 vaccine to enter into Phase III clinical trials. Professor Gilbert has been 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.
Boosted by a further £1.66 million in matched funding from the University, the Saïd family’s gift has enabled the permanent endowment of Professor Gilbert’s post, which will now be known as the Saïd Professorship of Vaccinology.
Professor Gavin Screaton, Head of the Medical Sciences Division, said:
“We are deeply grateful to Wafic Saïd and his family for their incredibly generous gift. By securing the future of this important post, the University will be able to continue to deliver and indeed accelerate its world-leading vaccine development research – work that will have an impact on lives globally both during this crisis and as other such challenges arise in the future.”
Wafic Saïd said:
“I am delighted to support Professor Sarah Gilbert and the University of Oxford as they work urgently towards developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. This is the single most important thing in the world today as the only way we can return to normality is to have an effective vaccine. I hope that the Saïd Professorship of Vaccinology will strengthen in perpetuity the University’s efforts to be a world leader in vaccine research.”
Philanthropist and businessman Mr Saïd is a long-standing supporter of the University of Oxford. He is the founding benefactor of the Saïd Business School, and has continued to give since its establishment, providing support for MBA and doctoral scholarships, careers and alumni services, and entrepreneurship initiatives. In 2019 he donated £15 million towards the Global Leadership Centre, a new teaching and residential facility for the school’s executive education programmes.
More on donations to coronavirus research
Back in July, Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal Lakshmi Mittal also donated £3.5 million to Oxford University’s vaccine development work. The endowment was for the post of professor of vaccinology. The post, currently held by Professor Adrian Hill, is now known as the Lakshmi Mittal and Family Professorship of Vaccinology in recognition of this support. Professor Hill has been principal investigator for the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial.
In addition, Bvlgari has helped Oxford University in support of its research into Covid-19 and vaccine development. It is funding the purchase of scientific equipment as well as scholarships for two students for the duration of their DPhil studies in vaccine research, covering course fees, the cost of IT support and laboratory items.
Elsewhere, Dolly Parton has also donated in support of research into a coronavirus vaccination. She announced on Instagram back in April that she was making a $1m donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help its research. The Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund has since been credited in the official preliminary report into the Moderna vaccine.
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