COVID-19: Oxford jab scientist set for £20m windfall in 'New York flotation'

8 April 2021, 08:14 | Updated: 8 April 2021, 13:25

The scientist who led the development of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is on course for a payday of £20m through a stock market listing, according to reports.

Professor Sarah Gilbert owns just over 5% of a company she co-founded in 2016 called Vaccitech.

According to the Financial Times, the biotechnology start-up has confidentially filed for an initial public offering in the US - a flotation that could earn her £22m because the company was said to be worth £425m at its last successful funding round.

Vaccitech owns the technology behind the COVID-19 jab - which is being sold by the pharma firm on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic - and other medical treatments and products.

It was said to be planning a listing on the Nasdaq exchange within weeks as US stock markets hit record levels on the back of expectations of a vaccine-led recovery for the economy.

The Oxford-Astra jab, while hailed as a first rate product, has hit bumps in the road over concerns about a possible link to blood clots in a small number of recipients.

Vaccitech's shareholders include Professor Gilbert's Oxford colleague, Professor Adrian Hill, the other co-founder who also has a stake of 5.2%.

GV, the venture capital fund of Google's parent firm Alphabet, has an interest of 12%.

The FT reported that the UK government also owned a stake though any interest was not listed in details lodged with Companies House.

The government issued a grant of almost £156,000 to Vaccitech for COVID jab research and it is common for equity to be included in return for such money under standard contracts via the National Institute for Health Research agency.

Sky News has contacted the Treasury for comment.

Vaccitech is yet to comment.

Any Nasdaq listing would represent a snub to the chancellor's efforts to make London more attractive for such listings.

Last month, another UK company Cazoo chose to merge with a so-called US-based special purpose acquisition company - or SPAC - backed by billionaire investor Dan Och.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, told Sky News: "It's a bit of a blow to London's ambitions to become a hub for new listings in areas like life sciences and technology.

"It's not massive - valued at about $450m I think - but nonetheless a knock to London's attempt to attract these types of companies, which are going to be the internet giants of the coming decades in my view.

"Coming off the back of the Deliveroo flop, a lot of attention is on the London market and the ability to handle big floats in the broader tech arena.

"The good news is that Oxford Nanopore did choose London for its much larger listing, which is a significant vote of confidence. The Nasdaq has always been the choice for biotech so this really is a big win."