The Irish scientist who helped develop the recently-approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine stands to make millions of dollars from the vaccine’s distribution, according to several media reports.
Dubliner Adrian Hill and fellow Oxford Professor Sarah Gilbert, who led the research team that developed the new COVID-19 vaccine at Oxford, both stand to profit from their start-up Vaccitech, which helped to develop the experimental vaccine along with Oxford’s Jenner Institute.
Vaccitech owns intellectual property used in the Oxford vaccine's development and the two professors own roughly 10 percent of the company.
They stand to make millions from royalties and from “milestone payments” once the COVID-19 pandemic is at an end, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company will receive milestone payments when the Oxford vaccine reaches important landmarks, including when it gains regulatory approval.
The vaccine was approved in the UK on Wednesday by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and is set to be delivered in two doses given four to 12 weeks apart.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine proved to be 90% effective against the coronavirus in one trial but only proved 62% effective in another trial. However, the Oxford vaccine holds a competitive advantage over similar vaccines due to the fact that it can be stored in a household fridge.
On the other hand, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored at a temperature of -70C (-94F).
Both Oxford and AstraZeneca could stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars from the new vaccine if it is effective against the coronavirus, especially if the vaccine is required annually in a similar fashion to the flu vaccine, according to the Daily Mail.
Oxford University stands to make six percent of all profits from the vaccine and Louise Richardson, the university's Irish Vice-Chancellor, said that the officials at Oxford were keen to avoid the same mistakes as 1940, when the university barely made any money from its discovery of the revolutionary antibiotic penicillin.
However, Professor Sarah Gilbert, who worked alongside Irish vaccinologist Adrian Hill to create the vaccine, said that she did not develop the vaccine for financial gain.
"We're a university and we're not in this to make money," Gilbert told the Daily Mail.
Nevertheless, Professor Gilbert and Hill are both set to make significant profits from their shares in Vaccintech, whose technology is reportedly pivotal to the efficacy of the vaccine.
The UK Government has also invested $6.5 million into the company, while several Chinese investors, including the investment arm of Huawei Technologies, also have small stakes in Vaccintech.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has said that it will not make any profit on the first three billion doses of the vaccine administered around the world. However, it could make hundreds of millions of dollars on any subsequent vaccinations.