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Brunel Chancellor to head vaccine taskforce

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Biochemist and Chancellor of Brunel University London, Sir Richard Sykes is the new chair of the UK Government’s vaccine taskforce.

Chancellor since 2013 and honorary graduate, Sir Richard will lead work to find, procure and deliver vaccines in the biggest vaccination drive in British history.

Former vaccine taskforce tsar Kate Bingham was awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list announced at the weekend.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons yesterday Sir Richard brings private and public sector leadership experience and said he was “delighted to have him on board to lead the team in the next stage of this mission”.

Sir Richard will oversee preparations for any potential vaccine booster programmes and work to make the UK a centre of excellence for the next generation of vaccines.

"We're proud and delighted to hear our Chancellor will play such a pivotal role in Britain's recovery from the pandemic,” said Brunel Vice-Chancellor Professor Julia Buckingham CBE. “He's already an enormous inspiration to our students and staff and now will be even more so."

Sir Richard ran an independent review of the taskforce’s strategy and goals in December 2020. He has also held senior positions in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, King Edward VII’s Hospital, UK Stem Cell Foundation and Singapore Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council.

He said: “I am determined to make sure the UK remains in the best possible position to beat this virus and has the tools it needs to respond to future public health threats. And I hope my appointment encourages future scientists, like those studying at Brunel, to aspire further in public health and biotechnology.”

The government set up the taskforce in March 2020, and, so far, more than 41 million people in the UK have been given a first dose (79.2%), and more than 29 million have had both doses (56.9%).