Bvlgari, the Italian luxury brand, has today announced plans to support research into COVID-19 and vaccine development at Oxford University.
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The new relationship comes as part of the brand’s commitment to better preventing pandemics now and in the future, through philanthropic donations. This gift will support Oxford research in two key areas; by purchasing boundary-pushing scientific equipment that will help to speed up vaccine development, and financing the studies of some of the world’s most talented researchers engaged in the field.
The collaboration was announced during a live webinar hosted by Jean-Christophe Babin, President and CEO of Bvlgari and Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: 'For us to continue to make world-leading advances against infectious diseases we need more excellent young scientists to join the field of vaccinology, and access to the most up to date equipment for our laboratories. This generous gift from Bvlgari addresses both of these needs, and will continue to have an impact for many years to come.'
Lack of available scholarships and financial constraints have recently been cited as the most common reasons why some of the most talented students choose to not take up their DPhil (PhD) offers from Oxford.
The Bvlgari Scholarship will financially support two students at postgraduate level, within the vaccine development group, the Oxford Jenner Institute, enabling the University to continue to attract the next generation of top talent to power Oxford’s world-leading position in vaccine research, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or financial background.
The Oxford Vaccine Group and Oxford Jenner Institute have been at the forefront of scientific endeavour to develop vaccines for diseases of major global importance for more than 30 years and are currently one of the leading research groups globally in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. Other vaccine technologies in development at the Oxford Jenner Institute, include, vaccines against pandemic influenza, malaria, TB, influenza, HIV, S. aureus, prostate cancer and recently emerged pathogens such as MERS, the Ebola virus and Rift Valley Fever.
Beneficiaries will receive full financial support over the four-year duration of their DPhil (PhD) studies in vaccine research. The scholarships will cover the students’ course fees, the cost of IT support laboratory consumables, and an internationally competitive maintenance grant. The scholarship awardees will be based at the Oxford Jenner Institute and selected from applicants and offer holders in the Medical Sciences Division at Oxford, across the relevant disciplines of Clinical, Medical and Biological Sciences.
It is anticipated that the candidate selection process for the Bvlgari Scholarship will begin as early as autumn 2020.
In addition to the scholarship programme, Bvlgari’s donation will also be invested in the purchase of a state-of-the-art flow cytometer to the Oxford Jenner Institute. Flow cytometry is a key tool used in emergency vaccine development that can rapidly speed up the process, allowing a more detailed understanding of cell response post-vaccination.
Used to measure the number and type of immune cells made in the body after the vaccine is given, it helps to identify which types of cells may lead to a vaccine being protective and therefore successful. Single-cell sorting is a critical component of many sophisticated analysis pathways for both pre-clinical and clinical studies as it allows scientists to separate out particular groups of cells of specific interest.
The new, high-tech cell sorter will be used by research groups working on COVID-19, malaria, TB, HIV, Ebola and influenza vaccines.
Bvlgari’s generous donation to the University is the latest step in the brand’s philanthropic commitment to improving the world at large, following the devastating coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, which plunged the world into an international pandemic. This commitment began in February 2020, with a donation to the Spallanzani Hospital in Rome of a new state-of-the-art 3D high-definition microscope. Their philanthropic vision was further solidified when the gravity of the pandemic crisis became clear in March, and Bvlgari converted its fragrance production to the sole manufacture of medical-grade hand sanitiser. This was subsequently donated to support frontline medical staff throughout Italy, Switzerland and the UK.
In addition to their significant contribution to vaccine development research at Oxford, Bvlgari are also inviting their clients to make their own donations to the University and its pioneering research in all aspects of understanding and tackling COVID-19 and its impact.
Jean-Christophe Babin, President and CEO of Bvlgari, said: 'Over the past few months, we have witnessed the shocking and detrimental effects of COVID-19 on every aspect of our society throughout the world. We can never let this happen again. Bvlgari vows not only to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, but also to work with the global leaders in Medical Sciences at Oxford University, to nurture the most talented minds of tomorrow. I am honoured and proud to have the opportunity to support Oxford in this common goal of eradicating viruses and stopping future pandemics in their tracks.'
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: 'We are deeply grateful to Bvlgari for their generous gift and look forward to working together over the coming years. Donations like this allow us to accelerate critical vaccine development research, which will aid Oxford’s response both to this crisis and to future pandemics.'