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Bvlgari and the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute announce the next stage of their pledge to build a pandemic-free future by awarding the inaugural Bvlgari Scholarships.

Bvlgari Scholars Rebecca Makinson and Cameron Bissett © John Cairns Photographer
Bvlgari Scholars Rebecca Makinson and Cameron Bissett

Following the announcement in June of a new philanthropic relationship between Bvlgari and the University of Oxford, Bvlgari’s donation in support of DPhil students in vaccine research benefits two exceptional students, appointed as the first cohort of Bvlgari Scholars. The Jenner Institute welcomes students Cameron Bissett and Rebecca Makinson this month for the start of their DPhil courses, after demonstrating remarkable academic potential and merit in the field of vaccine-related immunology.

Oxford’s Professor of Vaccinology Sarah Gilbert, who joined Bvlgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin in June to announce the brand’s donation during a live webinar, said: ‘We are very grateful to Bvlgari who have enabled Cameron and Rebecca to focus on their vital research free from financial worry. I hope these students are the first of many more future cohorts of Bvlgari Scholars.’

Reaching headlines across the globe for their vaccine candidate for COVID-19, Oxford’s Jenner Institute is a world-leading vaccine development group, designing, manufacturing and testing many novel vaccine technologies.

A 2020 graduate of Oxford’s M.Biochem degree, Cameron will be focusing his DPhil on vaccine studies against respiratory disease, principally SARS-CoV-2 (the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19). He will be studying the immune response after vaccines are delivered through different routes – for example via the arm or nose – under the supervision of Associate Professor Teresa Lambe and Dr Alex Spencer, both of whom have been heavily involved in the clinical trial work of the ‘Oxford Vaccine’ (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19).

Rebecca has worked at the Jenner Institute as a research assistant for the past two years, further to an integrated master’s degree in Biological Sciences from Durham University. Her DPhil will focus on in-depth characterisation of the cell-mediated immune response to COVID-19 vaccines, in the context of different age groups and exposure to other human coronaviruses. Rebecca’s research will benefit from the state-of-the-art flow cytometer, donated by Bvlgari in June, and her studies will be supervised by Associate Professors Katie Ewer and Teresa Lambe.

In a virtual meeting, Bvlgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin congratulated the newly appointed scholars Rebecca and Cameron. A lively discussion engaged with topics such as Oxford’s encouraging COVID-19 vaccine trial progress in Brazil and South Africa and how important it is to approach not as a race for the vaccine but a race against the virus. Jean-Christophe Babin compared Bvlgari’s contribution to drops of water that over time fill rivers and eventually fill oceans. Rebecca, remarking upon this analogy, said: ‘This is exactly how I see my work and I would not be able to take it up without Bvlgari’s kind funding.’ Cameron, equally appreciative of the opportunity provided by his Bvlgari Scholarship, said: ‘It would be an honour to contribute to vaccine research and to the community.’

Associate Professor Teresa Lambe said: ‘Cameron and Rebecca are impressive academic minds and have worked hard to gain places on these highly competitive DPhil courses. We are all confident of the important contributions they can make to our critical research at the Jenner Institute.’

Bvlgari’s philanthropic donation to the University of Oxford comes as part of the company’s commitment to preventing pandemics now and in the future. Since February, this has seen the brand finance a flow cytometer for the Jenner Institute, a 3D high-definition microscope for the Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, and medical-grade hand sanitiser, manufactured by its fragrance production houses and donated extensively to support frontline medical staff throughout Italy, Switzerland and the UK. More recently, Bvlgari Corporation of America announced its Women & Science Fund to support women scientists at the Rockefeller University.

Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bvlgari, said: ‘It is an honour to support the brilliant young scientific minds of tomorrow, Bvlgari Scholars Rebecca Makinson and Cameron Bissett and work closely with the world-leading University of Oxford to embrace a common vision in the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics.’