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Dr Catherine Green OBE: oration

Read Professor Pedro Estrela's oration on Dr Catherine Green OBE for the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in December 2022


Catherine Green OBE
Catherine Green OBE

Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and the congregation, Dr Catherine Green OBE a world-renowned biologist, whose work on developing a COVID-19 vaccine helped save millions of lives worldwide.

Catherine is the Head of the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility at Nuffield Department of Medicine and Associate Professor in Chromosome Dynamics at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford.

Her team works to transform medical products designed by scientists at Oxford, providing practical solutions and manufacturing them to meet the standards of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. She played a key role in developing the ground-breaking Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, leading the efforts by the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility to begin its production.

Catherine graduated from the University of Cambridge and received her PhD from University College London. With a Marie Curie Fellowship from the European Commission she started working on mammalian cells at the Institut Curie in Paris. She then worked at the University of Sussex where she studied DNA damage due to sunlight exposure and then at the University of Cambridge where she ran a small group, funded by a Cancer Research UK career development fellowship, investigating the mechanisms and control of genome replication, both at genetic and epigenetic levels, in order to understand cancer development. She joined the University of Oxford in 2012 where, most recently, she was part of the team who developed the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, leading the manufacturing of the first supplies for clinical trials. Catherine worked with Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert on the modification of the adenovirus vector platform that was under investigation for MERS and SARS. Instead of making first the potential vaccine

from synthetic DNA in the lab they went for a rapid method of testing and produced the first vials in Catherine’s small facility in the University. This enabled the time to the first clinical trials being significantly shortened. She not only led the production development in her lab but also led the scale up and transfer of knowledge to AstraZeneca. And the rest is history. She has recently managed to secure capital funding to expand the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility into a new building, which will significantly enhance the team’s ability to produce new vaccines and new kinds of medicines for small scale production. Catherine was awarded an OBE for services to Science and Public Health in the Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours. Catherine and the team were presented with a wide range of awards including the prestigious Royal Society Copley Medal, the Pride of Britain Award and, interestingly, the GQ Men of the Year award.

Catherine is keen that the general public understands how science is really done; that great discoveries are done by normal people who happen to be researchers with a passion for their subject matter and not by lunatic scientists in white coats locked in a dungeon with fuming flasks and giant electric generators.

She jointly authored a book with Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert called ‘Vaxxers’ – detailing their journey together in developing the vaccine. The book is aimed at a lay audience to help explain the science but also the safety of the vaccine. In the book, Catherine writes “The pandemic has driven an interest in and respect for science and scientists that I hope will endure”. It is thanks to the open dialogue with the public advocated by scientists and engineers like Catherine, that we have a chance that such interest and respect will indeed endure.

Chancellor, I present to you Dr Catherine Green OBE who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Engineering honoris causa.


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