Experts predict a vaccine or vaccines for COVID-19 may be available as early as the beginning of 2021.

Oxford University scientists have found a COVID-19 vaccine which has produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials in healthy volunteers, but caution that the project is still at an early stage.

Greek geneticist Menelas Pangalos, the Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneka, from Chios is part of the team creating the vaccine, called AZD1222. The vaccine is under development in collaboration with UK-based global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Trial results published in the Lancet medical journal found that the strongest response was seen in people who received two doses.

“We are encouraged by the Phase I/II interim data showing AZD1222 was capable of generating a rapid antibody and T-cell response against SARS-CoV-2. While there is more work to be done, today’s data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world,” Dr Pangalos said.

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British-born Dr Pangalos would visit Chios, the island of his heritage, every summer when growing up but also offered a great deal to the UK.

He couldn’t quite believe his eyes when he received a letter last year telling him he was to be knighted.

“I was at home in the utility room at home with my wife opening the mail in my pyjamas,” he told the Cambridge Independent. “I called her in and said ‘I’m not sure I’m reading this correctly’. I was hugely surprised and honoured – all the emotions go through you.

“Then we both burst in to tears. It was hugely exciting.”

Since joining AstraZeneka a decade ago, he has transformed the company’s culture, raising research and development productivity to help more medicines reach patients and has been a driving force behind a five-fold increase in the number of pipeline molecules advancing from pre-clinical investigation to completion of phase III clinical trials.

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He is currently working on programmes that involve 200 academic institutions.