Aussie doctor’s key role in Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine


An Australian doctor involved with a groundbreaking ebola vaccine candidate has been revealed as part of the team behind Oxford University's COVID-19-busting jab.

Professor Matthew Snape, who worked at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, is central to the Oxford candidate trial, which this week released preliminary findings showing vaccine efficacy of up to 90 per cent.

Experts hailed the positive results as the "beginning of the end" of the coronavirus crisis.


The AZD1222 vaccine, made in partnership with biotech company AstraZeneca, can be produced for the price of the cup of coffee and can be stored in a standard refrigerator for six months, making it viable to be rolled out in developing countries.

The Pfizer vaccine option must be stored at -70 degrees, while the Moderna option needs to be frozen in standard freezers during some stages of storage.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is one of four COVID-19 vaccine candidates the Australian Government has committed to purchasing.

Prof Snape's face was beamed to thousands of volunteers in a video explaining the Oxford trial process for the vaccine, which was conducted in the UK and Brazil before being expanded to the United States, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America.

Professor Matthew Snape is central to the Oxford candidate trial.
Professor Matthew Snape is central to the Oxford candidate trial.

Prof Snape also published a paper in the journal Science in September, that outlined research he had done into how coronavirus affected children.

"I work as a consultant in General Paediatrics and Vaccinology. This means half my job is working as a general/acute paediatrician, looking after children admitted to hospital for a wide range of conditions (including many with infectious diseases)," Prof Snape told the Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School website.

"In my work, I am inspired by the combination of intellectual interest and tangible results.

"I'd actually had minimal research experience by the time I completed my clinical training, but was always interested in pursuing this."



Prof Snape was involved in a phase one study of a vaccine strategy for Ebola virus in 2015.

Those trials used a modification of the virus that caused the common cold in chimpanzees.

That virus has been re-engineered to develop the Oxford coronavirus jab.

Lead Oxford researcher Professor Sarah Gilbert said it was a "plug and play" approach.

"We drop it in and off we go," Prof Gilbert told the BBC.

"I thought it might only have been a project, we'd make the vaccine and the virus would fizzle out. But it didn't."


Prof Snape has also been involved in a meningococcal B vaccine and a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine.

Prof Snape graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1993, and then did paediatric training at the Royal Children's Hospital.

He moved to the UK and finished his training at St Mary's Hospital in London where he worked as a hand's on doctor in the intensive care unit before going part time into academic life.

Prof Snape was awarded a post doctorate from the University of Melbourne in 2009.

His paper published in Science revealed that children were unlikely to spread the coronavirus.

He argued against school closures, saying there was not enough evidence to show that children spread the virus.

"Children and adolescents have been disproportionately affected by lockdown measures, and advocates of child health need to ensure that children's rights to health and social care, mental health support, and education are protected throughout subsequent pandemic waves," he wrote in September.

And he argued that children were a low priority for a vaccine.



Originally published as Aussie doctor's key role in Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine