A team of researchers led by University of Oxford staff has been honoured for its work in tackling the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

30 British researchers were awarded the government’s newly commissioned ‘Ebola Medal for Service in West Africa’, an award that was established in June by the Prime Minister to recognise the contribution of thousands of British citizens towards combatting the epidemic.

39 other people in the team, representing 14 different nations including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, were awarded a specially commissioned ‘University of Oxford Ebola Medal.’ These individuals were not eligible for the government award either because of their nationality or the location of their work. 

Catrin Moore, project manager of Oxford’s epidemic research group, told the Wellcome Trust, which funded the research team’s efforts in West Africa, “Peter Horby (Co-lead of the research team and Oxford professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health) and I were discussing how wonderful the Ebola medals are, but that they are only available to Brits who have spent over 21 days in one of the affected West African countries”.

“We thought that it would be wonderful to thank all of the West African, non-British and Oxford staff who dedicated so much of their time and effort to our project. We were unable to find a medal anywhere which expressed this so I suggested that we design a University of Oxford Ebola medal.”

The researchers who were given the honours carried out clinical trials for an Ebola vaccine in West Africa, setting the trials up in only a few months, far faster than the trials are usually conducted.

Held at Exeter College, the medal ceremony was part of a day of events on the topic of ‘fast-tracking clinical research in an epidemic’, with the findings of the conference due to be included in a forthcoming ‘Rapid Research Response Framework’ document.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, the outgoing Oxford Vice-Chancellor who presented the medals, commented, “The work of the team was absolutely critical. These kinds of outbreaks can arise at any time and we need to be ready to respond. They responded magnificently”.