How many of us have heard of Dame Sarah Gilbert? The lead researcher of the team behind the Oxford Vaccine, a.k.a. AstraZeneca or AZ, was shown to be a dedicated and passionate woman of science… and humanity.
Shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t- Professor Gilbert has made headlines as someone who could have profited off patenting the AstraZeneca vaccine, or through royalties from her work results. Oxford’s Professor of Vaccinology, however, chose not to profit off patenting the vaccine. Instead, she opted to, in her own words, “share the intellectual benefits so that anybody could produce the vaccine.”
Her decision had two major outcomes. Firstly, AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant responsible for dispersing the vaccine, agreed to not make any profit from the vaccine, in line with her wishes. These combined factors led to the creation of a low cost vaccine, with little to no complications in terms of storage requirements. Secondly, the low cost and high efficacy of the vaccine has made the AstraZeneca vaccine much more accessible to the general public, and more effective in containing the spread of the virus (studies have shown that the AZ vaccine is 92% effective against the virus AND the highly transmissible Delta variant). This has resulted in millions of people around the world getting the chance to be vaccinated, thereby saving millions of lives around the world!
These choices and her obvious passion and dedication to her field, as well as her inspiring display of humanitarian spirit have won hearts around the world. Having spear-headed the research in the developing an effective vaccine to combat the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that she has been highly lauded for her efforts- she has been listed on BBC’s 100 Women series as of 23 November 2020. In addition, Professor Gilbert has been awarded the Rosalind Franklin medal for her services to Science by Humanists UK at its annual Rosalind Franklin Lecture on 5 March 2021, where she delivered a lecture titled “Racing Against The Virus”. Her lecture detailed both the history of the science of vaccination, and recounted the progress of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Her dogged focus and determination has also resulted in her being awarded with the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), during the 2021 Birthday Honours by Queen Elizabeth II, for services to science and to public health in COVID-19 vaccine development. On attending the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, Professor Gilbert also received a standing ovation from those in attendance- an event shared across social media where she received further accolades for her contributions to society.
Standing ovation at Wimbledon’s Centre Court for Dame Sarah Gilbert who designed the Oxford COVID vaccine.
Very moving. pic.twitter.com/q4NosT19eN
— Joe Pike (@joepike) June 28, 2021
With AZ being one of the vaccines in Malaysia’s portfolio (and potentially a reason most of us have been able to get vaccinated in the first place) let’s all raise a hand in salute to Dame Sarah Gilbert. We thank you, Madame, for your efforts, and your drive and determination for the sake of humanity as a whole.