Oxford’s vaccine development team has received a £3.33 million gift from Wafic Saïd. The money will be used to fund the professorship in vaccinology, creating a permanent endowment for the position. The post, currently held by Professor Sarah Gillbert, will be known as the Saïd Professor of Vaccinology.
Oxford says the gift will ensure Professor Gilbert can “continue her ground-breaking research in the field, while also helping to ensure that Oxford remains at the forefront of vaccine development for generations to come.”
Gilbert has been working on Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine since 11 January and previously led development of the universal flu vaccine which underwent clinical trials in 2011. Due to her work on the COVID vaccine, Bazaar magazine named her one of 2020’s Women of the Year.
The donation was made by the Saïd family, a wealthy Saudi Arabian family and chief benefactor of the Saïd Business School. The University has also given £1.66 million to fund the position.
Saïd told The Daily Mail: “Professor Gilbert is a great scientist. It is the single most important thing to bring us back to normality – to have this vaccine.”
Saïd is a Saudi Arabian financier and philanthropist who is worth £1.5 billion, according to the Times. He is one of Oxford’s biggest donators and donated over £15 million towards a new teaching facility in 2019.
He added: “I am delighted to support [Gilbert} and the University of Oxford as they work urgently towards developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. This is the single most important thing in the world today as the only way we can return to normality is to have an effective vaccine.
“I hope that the Saïd Professorship of Vaccinology will strengthen in perpetuity the University’s efforts to be a world leader in vaccine research.”
Professor Gavin Screaton, head of the Medical Sciences Division, said: “We are deeply grateful to Wafic Saïd and his family for their incredibly generous gift.
“By securing the future of this important post, the University will be able to continue to deliver and indeed accelerate its world-leading vaccine development research – work that will have an impact on lives globally both during this crisis and as other such challenges arise in the future.”
In July, Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal donated £3.5 million to fund another professorship in vaccinology. This donation supported the position held by Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Oxford Jenner Institute.