Kettering's Sarah wins prestigious medal for incredible Covid vaccine work

Her name now appears alongside those such as Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie

Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:46 am
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:52 am
Prof Sarah Gilbert.

Stephen Hawking, Marie Curie, Tim Berners-Lee - they're all former winners of the prestigious Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Albert Medal.

And now Kettering's own Professor Sarah Gilbert has added her name to the roll of honour after she was named as the 2021 recipient this morning (Friday) for her incredible Covid vaccine work.

The 58-year-old, who went to Kettering High School for Girls, was the lead researcher on the Oxford vaccine team which helped develop the AstraZeneca jab which is currently helping save hundreds of thousands of lives across the world.

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The Albert Medal

She won the honour for her services to collaborative innovation for the global common good and is the 156th recipient of the medal, which was instituted in 1864 as a memorial to Prince Albert.

Kettering's mayor Cllr James Burton, who is due to receive his vaccine shortly, spoke of his pride.

He told the Northants Telegraph: "She is a daughter of Kettering and we are all so proud that she has played such an important role for the world.

"We have had some fantastic people come out of Kettering and she will certainly go down in the history books."

Previous recipients of the medal range from scientists, to artists, to leaders, to social campaigners.

They include Winston Churchill in 1945 for leading the allies to victory, Marie Curie in 1910 for the discovery of radium, Alexander Graham Bell in 1902 for the invention of the telephone, Stephen Hawking in 1999 for improving public awareness of physics and Tim Berners-Lee in 2002 for the creation of the World Wide Web.

Prof Gilbert said: “It is a great honour to receive this award.

"The creation and the development of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine came after I had worked in this field for many years, learning how to move quickly from a concept to a licensed vaccine, which involves numerous steps along the way.

"With a great team at Oxford we developed a ‘vaccine for the world’ which is now being used to save lives in many countries - our goal from the very beginning.”

Prof Gilbert joined the Kettering girls' school in Lewis Road in 1973 and was described by former classmates as quiet but hard-working.

She passed nine O-Levels, including an incredible six As, and played the oboe in the school's orchestra.

Michele Stock, nee King, was in the orchestra with her and played the flute.

She previously said: "Sarah was a very studious, hard-working girl and kept her head down and did her work.

"She was one of life's nice people. There was nothing that anyone could dislike about her."

Prof Gilbert went University of East Anglia where she studied biological sciences before her rise through the ranks, and she is now Professor of Vaccinology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford.

Matthew Taylor, RSA chief executive, said: "The RSA’s Albert Medal celebrates the best in innovation, and the Oxford vaccine is a huge triumph for British creativity, research and development. The path set by Prof Gilbert and her team shows how public, private and philanthropic sectors can collaborate in the public interest.

“Changemakers in every field, seeking new, more effective approaches to complex global challenges, will draw valuable lessons from the Oxford project.

“I am delighted Prof Gilbert has accepted this award, joining the ranks of distinguished innovators the RSA has honoured over the past 150 years, from Marie Curie to Stephen Hawking.”