Wednesday 8 December 2021

2021 Dimbleby Lecture


Sarah Gilbert is a Professor at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University. She leads a team of scientists who have over the past few years developed a vaccine innovation platform that allowed them to very rapidly design a new vaccine against the Covid-19 virus. 

Gilbert gave the 2021 Dimbleby lecture this week (HERE).  It is a wonderful piece of writing, and an even better lecture. Without any slides or visual aids, Gilbert explains with humility, humour and extreme lucidity what she had to do from January 2020 onwards to make the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine in record breaking time. I don't think I have ever seen the human drama and effort that is involved in making a major scientific breakthrough described so well. Gilbert calls out by name those people who made specific contributions to the breakthrough, she highlights the risks and the decisions that were made. She illustrates the contingent, unpredictable and quite remarkable set of conditions that needed to drop into place to achieve what they did. It is also an unaffected, but nonetheless convincing, lesson in the impact that publicly funded University research at its very best can have on the world.   

For those people who feel that they don't understand science, I would recomend listening to Sara Gilbert. I have no doubt they will feel inspired both by the story she has to tell, and by the way she tells it. 

The BBC iPlayer has the talk HERE.