Original Article

August 24, 2022
The Royal Society

Royal Society medals

Researchers, technicians, students and support staff responsible for the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been awarded the Royal Society’s Copley Medal for their rapid development and deployment of a vaccine against Covid-19.

This is the first time in the nearly 300-year history of the Copley Medal that it has been awarded to a team.

As the latest recipients of the Society’s most prestigious award, the Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Team will join figures recognised for their exceptional contributions to science, including Louis Pasteur, Dorothy Hodgkin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Accepting the Copley Medal on behalf of the team*, Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert DBE, Saïd Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: “It is wonderful to receive this recognition for the team that developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. 

“When work started on the vaccine in 2020, we needed to bring together people with complementary expertise to allow us to move quickly and plan many stages ahead. Many people worked extremely hard for a very long time, and winning this prize lets the whole team know how much their dedication is appreciated.”

Other recipients of the Society’s 2022 prizes awarded for their involvement in the Covid-19 pandemic include Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam MBE FMedSci, who receives the David Attenborough Award and Lecture for his public engagement work, and Professor Graham Medley OBE who was awarded the Gabor Medal, in recognition of his team’s epidemiological modelling contributions.

The Royal Society introduced two new annual prizes in 2022, celebrating the work of technicians and those who work to improve research culture. A number of winners this year showcase these wider contributions to the scientific effort:

  • University of Nottingham chemistry research technician, Neil Barnes, receives the inaugural Hauksbee Award, in recognition of his role in supporting generations of physical chemists as a research technician, including as a demonstrator on the YouTube chemistry channel, Periodic Videos.
  • Dr Diane Saunders, John Innes Centre, is awarded the Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture, for her mentoring project to empower female undergraduate and early career researchers in plant sciences.
  • Dr Mark Richards, Imperial College London, is recognised for his commitment to increasing equity in physics through the development of the UK’s first network of Black physicists, the Blackett Lab Family, with the inaugural Royal Society Research Culture Award
  • The UCL STEM Participation and Social Justice team, is aiming to make STEM more inclusive, accessible and equitable for all young people, and receive the Athena Prize.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said, “On behalf of the Royal Society, I offer my congratulations to the outstanding researchers, individuals and teams whose contributions to our collective scientific endeavour have helped further our understanding of the world around us.

"Science has always been a team game, and I’m proud to see such a wide array of skills and specialisms reflected in this year’s medals and awards.

“From the original ideas that open up new fields, to the team effort that delivered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, or the vital work of technicians and those opening doors for the next generation of talented researchers – I am proud that we can celebrate outstanding scientific contributions in all their forms.”

(The Royal Society)