Oxford scientists behind COVID-19 vaccine set for multimillion pound payday

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford. Photo: PA
Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford. Photo: PA

Two University of Oxford scientists who helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) look set for a multimillion pound payday from the stock market listing of their business.

Professor Sarah Gilbert and Professor Adrian Hill could both been in line for payouts of over £20m from the float of their business Vaccitech in New York.

The Financial Times reported that Vaccitech has filed confidential paperwork to begin the process of listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Gilbert and Hill cofounded the company as a university spin-out in 2016. Vaccitech develops cancer treatments and vaccines and therapeutics for novel viruses. The business shot to fame last year after helping to co-create the AZD1222 COVID-19 vaccine along with AstraZeneca. Professor Gilbert became the public face of the development effort, providing regular updates to the press.

The FT did not give an expected valuation for Vaccitech in the stock market listing but last month the company was valued at $425m (£309m) in a private fundraising, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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The price tag would put Professor Gilbert and Professor Hill in line for payouts worth over £20m. The pair both own just over 5% of the business each, according to recent filings with Companies House.

Other investors including Google's parent company Alphabet (GOOGL) and the University of Oxford itself. Sequoia Capital — the legendary Silicon Valley investment house that has backed the likes of Apple (AAPL), Google, and YouTube — owns a significant stakes in the business.

A spokesperson for Vaccitech declined to comment.

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As with most biotech companies, Vaccitech requires huge amounts of money to fund the development of its experimental and early-stage drugs. The company made a pre-tax loss of £20m ($27.5m)in 2019, the most recent year accounts are available for.

Commenting on a $168m funding round last month, Vaccitech's chief executive Bill Enright said he believed the business would soon "reach key value inflection points." The company is currently working on treatments for HPV, hepatitis B, and prostate cancer.

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