Professor Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford scientist behind Astrazeneca’s coronavirus jab, is set to land a payday of as much as $20m (£15m) as her vaccine start-up prepares for its stock market debut.
Gilbert is understood to be sitting on millions of dollars worth of shares in biotech firm Vaccitech, which is expected to list in an initial public offering (IPO) in New York later this year.
Gilbert established Vaccitech in 2016 together with fellow university professor Andrew Hill. The firm has played a crucial role in the development of the Astrazeneca vaccine, which the Anglo-Swedish company has pledged to sell on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic.
However, Vaccitech is entitled to royalty and milestone payments from the jab, which could hike in value if booster Covid jabs are required in the long-term.
Gilbert and Hill each own more than five per cent of the company, according to the latest filings with Companies House. The company raised $168m earlier this year in a round which reportedly valued it at $450m.
Oxford University and Google Ventures — the search engine’s investment arm — also hold significant shares in Vaccitech.
Oxford Sciences Innovation, which helps the university to make money from its intellectual property, is also a major shareholder.
The company’s choice of the US for its public listing will come as a major blow to London, which has embarked on a major push to attract more companies to the City over the past few months.
Vaccitech is understood to be targeting an IPO valuation of around $700m, according to The Wall Street Journal.
However, bad publicity surrounding the Astrazeneca vaccine could knock the valuation price later this year.
The UK’s medicines regulator made the surprise move yesterday to recommend under-30s seek an alternative Covid vaccine amid mounting concerns that the Astrazeneca jab could carry an increased risk of blood clots.
A review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found that by the end of March, 79 people in the UK had suffered rare blood clots after taking the vaccine — 19 of whom died.
It said potential side effects were extremely rare, but that the risks remained greater amongst younger people. Nearly two-thirds of the cases were among women.
The review prompted the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government’s advisory group, to recommend that people aged between 18 and 29 be offered an alternative vaccine where possible.