Scientist behind Astrazeneca jab in line for £17m windfall

The woman behind Oxford’s coronavirus jab is in line for a multi-million pound windfall as her company plans to float on the stock market.

Professor Sarah Gilbert stands to make more than £17million when Vaccitech, the firm she co-founded, debuts on Wall Street. 

The mother-of-three owns just over 5 per cent of the company and it was recently valued at £327million – although reports suggest that could rise.

Windfall: Professor Sarah Gilbert stands to make more than £17m when Vaccitech, the firm she co-founded, debuts on Wall Street

Windfall: Professor Sarah Gilbert stands to make more than £17m when Vaccitech, the firm she co-founded, debuts on Wall Street

Windfall: Professor Sarah Gilbert stands to make more than £17m when Vaccitech, the firm she co-founded, debuts on Wall Street

Co-founder Professor Adrian Hill, who is director of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, holds the same number of shares as Gilbert and could also make £17million, according to filings on Companies House. 

The pair founded Vaccitech as an Oxford University spinout in 2016.

Its signature technology, which uses a harmless version of a respiratory virus found in chimpanzees, is the cornerstone of the coronavirus jab being administered to millions of Britons. 

Gilbert grew up in Kettering, Northamptonshire. Her father worked at a shoe factory and her mother was a teacher.

She studied biological sciences and did a PhD at Hull University before getting a job at Oxford in 1994. 

The scientist – whose triplets took part in trials of the Oxford jab – never meant to become an expert in vaccines.

‘I actually came to Oxford to work on a human genetics project,’ she said previously. 

‘That highlighted the role of a particular type of immune response in protection against malaria and so the next thing to move on to was to make a vaccine that would work through that type of immune response – and that’s how I got into vaccines.’

Since then, with Hill, she has pioneered the use of genetically altered viruses to make vaccines for diseases such as influenza, Mers, Zika and Ebola.

Astrazeneca was given exclusive rights to sell and distribute Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine. However this is being done at no profit during the pandemic.

This, along with the ease with which the jab can be transported and stored, has led the World Health Organisation to hail it as a ‘vaccine for the world’.

After the pandemic, Vaccitech is expected to share in any revenues from continued sales of the vaccine and it is developing booster jabs for variants of the virus.

It has notified regulators in the US of its intention to float – the first step towards becoming a company with publicly-traded shares – according to the Financial Times.

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