How being mum to triplets helped ‘relieved’ Oxford professor develop coronavirus vaccine
Professor Sarah Gilbert of the University of Oxford (Image: John Lawrence/REX/Shutterstock)
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The lead professor behind the successful Oxford coronavirus vaccine has revealed how having triplets helped her succeed.
Professor Sarah Gilbert said having three babies at once 21 years ago gave her the unusual training she needed to later develop the game-changing jab.
Suddenly having to raise multiple newborns meant they became her entire focus and she learned to "cut out anything not essential".
"When you have young triplets, that’s all there is in your life because that’s all you have time for, so that’s all you do," Prof Gilbert told the Daily Telegraph.
Prof Gilbert said the tunnel-vision focus of raising triplets provided perfect training
(Image: John Lawrence/REX/Shutterstock)
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"When they were younger, I cut out anything that was not essential, and it has been exactly the same this year working through the pandemic.
"You cut out anything not essential and you work, eat, sleep and work again. I know it is a relatively short period of time out of my life, and this too shall pass."
The vaccine, the result of a partnership between Oxford University and AstraZeneca, was found to be up to 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19.
The Oxford vaccine has shown to be 90 percent effective
Those behind it say the jab is effective in stopping most people from contracting coronavirus and falling seriously ill, with some indications that it can also prevent people passing the virus to others.
It is likely to be rolled out in the UK from December, with the bulk of vaccination in the new year.
When China released the vaccine’s genetic code on January 10, the team at the university's Jenner Institute already had the ground work in place to begin developing a treatment.
With vast experience in vaccine research, at that time they were working on a treatment for a new type of mutant flu using a virus which causes colds in chimpanzees.
Prof Gilbert formed the core of the team alongside director of the Oxford Vaccine Group Prof Andrew Pollard and Jenner director Prof Adrian Hill.
Andrew Pollard, the chief trial investigator
(Image: Photos by John Cairns)
For eight months, the trio have never been in one room together in order to avoid passing the virus onto each other and slowing down their work.
The first trial doses were manufactured in early February and by late April they had begun phase one of human testing with 1,000 volunteers.
Thanks to crowdfunding and £65.5million from the Government announced in May, the team was able to continue working – having signed a deal with British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca in April to supply more than three billion doses worldwide.
Professor Adrian Hill, founder and director of the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute
Professor Gilbert had considered a career change while a young student in biological sciences at the University of East Anglia due to the often solitary working life.
"There are some scientists who will happily work more or less on their own on one subject for a very long time… That's not the way I like to work. I like to try to take into account ideas from lots of different areas," she told BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific, earlier this year.
Eventually though she decided to have another go because she "needed the income".
The UK has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough to vaccinate most of the population – with rollout expected in the coming weeks if the jab is approved.
It also has orders for 40 million doses of the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been shown to be 95 percent effective.
Another jab from Moderna, of which the UK has five million doses on order, is 95 percent effective, according to trial data.