Sarah Gilbert, co-founder of UK-based Vaccitech and a professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, has been charged with overseeing a promising effort to rapidly develop a vaccine for Covid-19.
Her team from the renowned Jenner Institute was awarded a £2.2 million grant from the UK’s National Institute for Health Research and the UK Research and Innovation in March to conduct preclinical and clinical trials of the vaccine. The UK government has just provided an additional £20 million in funding.
Gilbert, whose early work focused on malaria vaccine research, started working on the vaccine with her team as soon as China released the full genome sequence of Covid-19 in January. She has also led the development and testing of the universal flu vaccine, which was tested in 2011.
In terms of a timetable, Gilbert has said she hopes to inoculate 500 people by mid-May, followed by volunteers ages 55 to 70 — with plans to keep expanding the pool of patients.
“The best-case scenario is that by the autumn of 2020, we have … the ability to manufacture large amounts of the vaccine,” she said, according to The Lancet. Still, she cautioned, “These best-case timeframes are highly ambitious and subject to change.”