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Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert has been awarded the prestigious King Faisal Prize in recognition of her work to co-create a COVID-19 vaccine that has saved an estimated six million lives.

Sarah Gilbert receiving King Faisal Prize alongside representatives of the King Faisal Foundation © KFF

The Pandemic Sciences Institute's Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert received the prestigious 2023 King Faisal Prize for Medicine at a ceremony last week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The award is in recognition of her work to co-create a vaccine for COVID-19 that has now been used in more than 180 countries and is estimated to have saved more than six million lives. 

Launched in 1979, the King Faisal Prize recognises the outstanding works of individuals and institutions in five  categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, Medicine, and Science. Professor Gilbert received the 2023 Prize for Medicine alongside Professor Dan Barouch of Harvard Medical School.

Professor Gilbert, Saïd Chair of Vaccinology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, led the University of Oxford’s work to develop the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine. The vaccine has widespread global use in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly in low- and middle-income countries – due to its low-cost and accessibility.

Accepting the award, Professor Gilbert said: 

"It is a very great honour to have been awarded this year’s King Faisal Prize for Medicine and to follow-in the footsteps of the men and women whose work has been recognised by the King Faisal Foundation over more than four decades.

“This vaccine could not have been produced without an enormous effort by an exceptional team. This includes many scientists at the University of Oxford, our global collaborators, clinical trial volunteers, and of course AstraZeneca. Together we achieved our goal of making a vaccine for the world.

“Much of our success in the last three years must also be attributed to the years of research in vaccine technologies, including work on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in collaboration with researchers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

Professor Gilbert is donating the prize funds to the Pandemic Sciences Institute for use on work to protect the world from future pandemic threats. By working together – across sectors, disciplines and geographies – we are developing the vaccines and treatments that will protect humankind from the threat of infectious diseases.