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Alumna seeks coronavirus vaccine

With decades of experience in developing therapies against HIV and cancer, Dr Sally Adams (1979) is part of the scientific push to develop a vaccine for SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr Adams has built a successful career in drug discovery and development. She is the Development Director at Scancell, an immune-oncology company with a primary focus on developing innovative immunotherapies for cancer that stimulate the body’s own immune system

One of the first cohort of women undergraduates to arrive at Jesus, the 40th anniversary of which we are celebrating this academic year, Dr Adams received her MA in Genetics before going on to study for a PhD in Microbiology at Imperial College London.

When asked about her current work and time at Jesus, Dr Adams said: “Our primary focus is to develop vaccines against cancer; however, this has now come full circle for me as we exploit our expertise in the vaccine field to tackle the virus that causes COVID-19. 

“Coming up to Jesus in 1979 was the start of my interest in biological sciences.  My first taste of research was as a Part II student in the Genetics Department where I was introduced to the idea of ‘jumping genes’ through the work of Barbara McClintock in the 1950s.  This interest continued through my PhD studies and culminated in my eventual career move into the development of vaccines against HIV in the late 1980s. 

“It was an honour and privilege to be one of the first female undergraduates in 1979; it prepared me for a career in science and forged many long-lasting friendships which are still an important part of my life today.”

While studying at Jesus, Dr Adams was a keen sportswoman and served as the first ever Secretary for the newly formed Jesus College Women’s Boat Club. We were delighted to welcome her and others from the 1979 cohort back to College for ‘The Fortieth’ event in October and to the 40th Anniversary Boat Club dinner, to celebrate their trailblazing achievements.


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