Vaccinologist forgoes millions to save millions of lives

Humanitarian: Gilbert says she rejected patenting the vaccine because she wanted to share its benefits so anyone could produce it.

PETALING JAYA: The name Dame Sarah Gilbert may not ring a bell among most Malaysians, but the British scientist gave up the chance to make millions in profits to help save millions of lives around the world with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is part of Malaysia’s portfolio to combat the lethal Covid-19 pandemic.

In a report, mStar noted that the professor of vaccinology, who led Oxford University’s research into the vaccine, had refused to patent or profit from it.

A video of Gilbert on her work on the vaccine has gone viral on social media, with netizens being in awe of her intelligence, dedication to her field, and the inspiration that she is – especially the excellent spirit of humanity that she has displayed.

The Malay portal reported Gilbert as saying that “as the individual who invented the vaccine which is so much needed now, I could have raked in a huge profit.

“I rejected (any desire) to patent the vaccine, not to mention getting royalties for the hard work.

“I did not want to take full patent rights because I wanted to share the intellectual benefits so that anybody could produce their own vaccine,” she said.

In line with her wishes, AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, agreed with Oxford not to make any profit from the vaccine.

The BBC reported that owing to this, the cost of the AstraZeneca vaccine was about US$4 (RM16.80) per dose, considerably cheaper than other vaccines, the mStar article added.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is said to have an efficacy of 92% and is also effective against the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Gilbert, 59, has been at the forefront on vaccine research against pathogens and viruses.

The former University of East Anglia (UEA) and University of Hull (UK) graduate previously helped in the research and development of vaccines against Ebola and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

The mother of triplets was among seven Oxford University researchers who were honoured recently by Queen Elizabeth II in conjunction with her 95th birthday.

Last month, Gilbert was among the frontliners invited to attend the Wimbledon tennis tournament, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

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