The initiation of clinical trials of the Oxford vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, on 23 April – and progress in just three months to a large-scale evaluation programme with more than 10,000 volunteers now enrolled across three continents – is a huge milestone in clinical research for the Medical Sciences Division in the University.
In many ways, it has been business as usual for me as director of the Oxford Vaccine Group in the Department of Paediatrics. Yet the pace, scale, intense scrutiny, and unworldliness of working in a pandemic, has dramatically enhanced the “experience”… but it is noted here that for such endeavours, we are fortunate to have a remarkable infrastructure in Oxford that makes it possible.
Behind the headlines, which we continue to read, is a talented team of hundreds of clinical, scientific and support staff. Each person has worked tirelessly to make the vaccine, build the databases, book thousands of appointments for volunteers, work out the logistics of running a socially-distanced research clinic in a pandemic, run tens of thousands of clinic visits, process hundreds of thousands of blood samples and they have done all of this with good humour.
Across the University, and the hospital, many colleagues have made themselves available at short notice to swell the numbers to work in the three busy vaccine clinics that popped up in Headington – especially the doctors and nurses who work with our trial volunteers. And we have been able to build a research infrastructure across the NHS with 19 research teams to deliver the phase III programme across the UK.
The civil service of the University has had a profound (positive!) influence on our research in the pandemic, with extraordinary and heroic efforts from teams in research services, divisional/departmental administration, building managers and the news and communications teams who are permanently in the trenches for us and continue to deal with the deluge.
To all of them, thanks for being the team that makes research possible, but let’s hope it ends soon.