Thu 6 May 2021

While the Jenner Institute is at the centre of the search for a COVID-19 vaccine, David Hencke explains how a museum dedicated to Edward Jenner is threatened because of the lockdown.

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It must be one of the supreme ironies of this current COVID-19 crisis. As millions are poured into the Jenner Institute at Oxford University to find a life-saving vaccine, a museum and home telling the life of Edward Jenner, the famous immunologist is facing permanent closure for the sake of a few thousand pounds.

Last week pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca went into partnership with Oxford University to develop a vaccine against the Coronavirus which will cost billions if it is ultimately successful.  The recipient of the deal is the Jenner Institute which plans a clinical trial involving 6,000 people this month. 

Jenner is one of the largest academic centres focused on non profit vaccine research. It has its own pilot manufacturing plant that can make a batch of up to 1,000 doses. 

In 2014, they had developed a template for mass production of the Coronavirus vaccine, if it is effective, that could provide a million doses.

The institute is named after Edward Jenner, a British immunologist credited with discovering a smallpox vaccine over 200 years ago following 400,000 people dying from smallpox across Europe.  Last week the World Health Organisation celebrated the 40th anniversary of the eradication of the disease.

But in the same week, the small charity which runs the museum and home of Edward Jenner in Berkeley in Gloucestershire is facing closure because the Coronavirus lockdown has destroyed all its income as nobody can visit the place.

The supreme irony is how little money is required to save it – its expenses are just £206 a day – and it is seeking to raise £34,490 – to prevent it closing.

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched.

In it the charity says: “Like many charities, we do not hold significant reserves and rely on admission tickets, shop sales, venue hire, events, school visits and donations to generate 70% of our annual income and help us to remain open. Any length of closure puts the museum at risk; the loss of a whole year of visitor income could prove catastrophic.”

There is also a story about the museum in Gloucestershire Live.

It would extraordinary if the Jenner Institute did save us from coronavirus while a living record of the man who saved Europe from smallpox is closed down because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

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