FAt an early age, I was fascinated with the natural world, and in particular how living things work. The interaction between organisms, such as between a host and a pathogen, is fascinating to me. I have always been interested in translational research – how can what I do at the bank have an impact on the health of the general public?
The sentiment has never been more relevant than now. In times of a pandemic, the rolling of vaccines that can prevent disease is an intervention of public health that will benefit so many lives.
Since April, I work on Assessing Immune Responses in the Clinics Trials of Oxford / Astrazeneka Chadox 1-NCOV. In my role as a post-doctoral immunologist at the Jenner Institute, I previously worked on clinical trials for outbreak pathogens such as Ebola, Mers-Cove and influenza. My work involved antibody responses induced by these vaccines.
So when the task of improving immunology analyzes, specifically antibody levels, for the Covid-19 vaccine came around, I had the necessary skills to beat the ground running. True, the work at hand for Covid-19 clinical trials would be much bigger than anything I or any of my colleagues have ever worked on before. Meanwhile, I lead the laboratory team to look at antibody responses to the vaccine in volunteers for clinical trial. We are interested in the antibody response to our vaccine antigen – for ChAdOx1-nCov which is the SARS-COV-2 spike protein.
We invested the antibody response after one dose of vaccine and after two doses saw as the compare. We also compared antibody responses in different age groups. Now we will follow the antibody response over several months to determine if our vaccine can elicit a long-lasting immune response.
My work involves much more than performing experiments in the laboratory. Planning, data analysis, logistics (such as storing thousands of samples), organizing both laboratory consumables and managing people are all in a day job. Working on this vaccine, there have been many pressures, including tight turnaround time for performing assays in the laboratory to make immunology data available as soon as possible after blood samples are taken from volunteers.
I have worked harder in 2020 than ever before, and hopefully more than I will have to again! Sometimes the workload is frustrating – especially when you think you’ve done a job and you can have a little breather, but there is another, often bigger job, a moment later.
For me, the best way forward in such situations is to pull together as a team and learn how to achieve the end-goal with the skills of the people in the laboratory. There have been many highs and lows in the last nine months, but these have been shared among co-workers, many of whom I would never have had the pleasure of working with if this were not for the trials.
Did I ever worry, “What if the vaccine doesn’t work?” Obviously these are the kind of thoughts that would occur in my head when I should have been asleep. However, I had confidence in both vaccination technology and in the team, which work tirelessly towards a common goal. Thankfully, we are rewarded with the news that ChAdOx1-nCoV is effective in preventing Covid-19.
On this hearing I just burst into tears. Tears of relief, joy, hope and excitement for the future of this vaccine. I am so proud to be a part of this vaccine and I look forward to how it can benefit people all over the world.