Microbiotica co-founder Prof Gordon Dougan awarded Sabin gold medal
Microbiotica co-founder Gordon Dougan, FRS, Professor in the Department of Medicine and the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Cambridge, has been awarded the 2020 Albert B Sabin Gold Medal.
The Gold Medal, now in its 27th year, is Sabin’s highest scientific honour, and is given annually to a member of the global health community who has made extraordinary contributions to vaccinology or a complementary field. Past award recipients include leaders of vaccinology and vaccine advocacy such as Drs DA Henderson, Maurice Hilleman, Anne Gershon, Myron Levine and Paul Offit.
Prof Dougan’s research in vaccine discovery and delivery has focused on two key areas; equitable access to vaccines and information, and the application of genomics to enable vaccine development . After earning his doctoral degree from Sussex University, he spent 10 years at the Wellcome Foundation, then moved to Imperial College, where he established the Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection.
Next, Professor Dougan assembled a world class program for teaching and research at the Wellcome Sanger Institute . While there, he built a department that led research on pathogen genomics and disease tracking, put antimicrobial resistance on the map as a major public health concern and pioneered the construction of attenuated strains of salmonella to aid in the development of typhoid vaccines. The open access data and technology generated under his leadership at the Institute directly impacted the creation of vaccines against many diseases including pertussis, typhoid fever and cholera, and his multi-faceted coalition-building work with the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, led to the successful delivery of several affordable vaccines around the world.
“I’m honoured to receive this award named after Dr Sabin, whose ground-breaking invention and successful global distribution of the trivalent oral polio vaccine relates to some of my proudest professional accomplishments,” said Prof Dougan. “Open access data and technology has empowered scientists and researchers, including in low- and middle-income countries, to accelerate progress on vaccines that may be of low commercial priority, but make a substantial difference to the quality of life and health of vulnerable populations around the world. I am proud to have supported this work.”
Mike Romanos, co-founder and CEO, Microbiotica, added: “Throughout Gordon’s distinguished career he has made an enormous contribution to the field of vaccinology, particularly in working to improve vaccine delivery to poorly resourced regions. His knowledge and expertise in analysing microbial populations is one of the cornerstones upon which Microbiotica was founded, and is helping to advance new therapeutic strategies in the microbiome . On behalf of everyone at Microbiotica , I would like to congratulate him in receiving this prestigious award.”
Prof Dougan has had a busy few months.
“I run a lab in the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, where we study antibiotic resistance and infections,” he says. “We work closely with Cambridge University Hospitals, applying genomics to analyse clinical samples. I’m also a strategic advisor to Wellcome, and until recently was spending two days a week at its headquarters in London. I’m now spending all my working time in the JCBC, continuing to work remotely for Wellcome. I’ve worked throughout the lockdown.
“My team was involved in setting up Covid-19 testing for healthcare workers, and establishing a containment level 3 facility - designed to safely handle infectious diseases - for this. It was hard work, but I believe it made a major impact on reducing Covid in the hospital and department so it has been very rewarding. The group is now slowly stepping back from testing and returning to our normal work.”
He noted: “In many parts of the world people still live with the daily threat of diseases like cholera, typhoid, and malaria. In reality Covid is just another infection.”