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Team Oxford: The seven celebrated scientists who took on Covid-19

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he pioneering Oxford University scientists who took on the “high stakes endeavour” of combating Covid-19 have shone a light on the lifesaving work that sees them recognised on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Researchers Sarah Gilbert, Andrew Pollard, Peter Horby, Martin Landray, Catherine Green, Teresa Lambe and Adrian Hill may not yet be household names, but all played integral roles in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and discovering new drug treatments.

The approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab in December came after experts worked at breakneck speed to turn the tide of a pandemic that had already taken a heavy toll.

Normally it takes years for an effective vaccine to be developed and made ready for market – but from the start of last year it became a race against time.

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Professor Andrew Pollard

“The pace has been quite incredible because we’ve tried to compress about 10 years of vaccine development into 11 months,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who is knighted for his services to public health.

Science is not normally such a high stakes endeavour,” added Professor Catherine Green, head of the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, who is made an OBE for services to science and public health.

Speaking to the PA news agency alongside her colleagues, she said: “Our projects are spread out over lots of years – but I think it was the focus on teamwork, community and understanding that we were in this not only for the UK but also for the whole world.

“So just wanting to do our best, with no guarantee of success, but wanting to do our best throughout gets you through.”

Professor Sarah Gilbert, who holds the Said Professorship of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, and is made a dame after helping mastermind the new vaccine, said: “We didn’t really think that far ahead when we were developing the vaccine, it was all about going from day to day and it has been absolutely phenomenal the way the vaccine has been rolled out in so many different ways, it has been very, very impressive.”

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab – called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – uses a harmless, weakened version of a common virus which causes a cold in chimpanzees.

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