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St Edmund's alumnus Dr Gokul Selvaraj developing universal coronavirus vaccine

17 Jun 2022

Dr Gokul Selvaraj is a research scientist at Harvard University, USA, following the completion of his Ph.D. at St Edmund's. He has been involved in a challenging project of developing a universal vaccine for coronavirus and the flu.

Almost 102 years ago, the Spanish flu, also known as H1N1, appeared around the world, and caused extraordinary mortality with an estimated 50–100 million deaths (the deadliest event in recent human history). There have been three more influenza pandemics, in 1957, 1968, and 2009 (swine flu pandemic). Similarly, the world witnessed three coronavirus outbreaks in the last 20 years: the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012, and the current SARS-CoV2.

The current coronavirus pandemic is a reminder of the urgent need for innovations in vaccine development as these viruses continue mutating. Dr Selvaraj is currently screening a range of antigens from these deadly viruses intending to develop universal vaccines against these diseases. If successful, the universal vaccine would be effective against current and future strains of coronaviruses and flu, which could help prevent future corona or flu outbreaks or pandemics in the world. In addition to the universal vaccine, Dr Selvaraj is collaborating with other elite researchers at Harvard University to develop a rapid saliva antigen test to detect harmful viruses. This work is in the final stage and is expected to be published soon in a high-impact research journal.

About his time at St Edmund's, Gokul says, "I’m grateful to study at St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge. It has not only provided me an opportunity to work alongside leading researchers like Nobel Laureate Sir John Gurdon, but has also offered me with incredible opportunity to discuss with Sir David Attenborough, a chance to see Stephen Hawking, and much more. My time at St Edmund’s College was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would always cherish all the moments I had with great minds, and the wonderful moments with friends at the historic and beautiful buildings of the University of Cambridge, and Cambridge city. It will always be in my heart”.