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Former student helps to create AstraZeneca Covid vaccine

A former Telford College student has played a pivotal role in the development of the new AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Jordan Barrett is part of a team of scientists who have been working 14 hours a day to make the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine a reality.

“To be a vaccine scientist and work on a trial and potentially be vaccinated with a vaccine I helped with is amazing and gratifying,” he said.

“It’s an amazing achievement by people around the world who came together to work to get out of this situation. It puts faith into the science for me.”

Jordan, 25, is originally from Telford but now lives in Oxford after graduating from Oxford University in biochemistry. He was at Telford College’s former King Street campus from 2011 to 2013, studying biology, chemistry, physics and maths.

“I already intended to go to university when I started, but the college really raised my aspirations and encouraged me to aim for a higher university,” he said.

Jordan Barrett, part of the Oxford team which has helped to develop the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
Jordan Barrett, part of the Oxford team which has helped to develop the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

“All my teachers were encouraging of my ability, but my chemistry teacher was the one who really convinced me I could go to Oxford. I didn’t think that was realistic prior to that.

“My application was also supported a lot by a personal tutor, which was instrumental in me getting into Oxford – and where I am today.”

Jordan originally joined the AstraZeneca research team in 2017 as a research assistant, working on blood-stage malaria clinical trials.

He is now a Clinical Immunology Research Assistant, working in the new biochemistry building at the University of Oxford’s department of biochemistry

Stuart Gregory, who was Jordan’s physics tutor during his time at Telford College, said: “It’s fabulous to see one of our former students playing such a key role in the biggest issue of modern times.

“I remember Jordan as someone who was very, very smart, and used to ask really good questions – the sort that show real insight and understanding, and that you wouldn’t think about yourself. He worked really hard.”

Jordan and his colleagues set up antibody assays to test how people’s immune systems responded to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine during the development stage, and the group tested hundreds of volunteers.

He said: “There were different groups of people; we looked at people who had a single dose, those who had got the booster dose and older adults who had the vaccine.

“There was a strong drive to get this data ready and out. It was essentially my full-time job. I didn’t have time for much else.”

Jordan said the intensive workload sometimes saw him working up to 14 hours a day, six days a week.

“It’s been incredibly strange. When coronavirus was starting to spread around we didn’t think it would end up like this. But I enjoy being in a lab and discovering new things. It’s really rewarding.”