Thinking of Oscar
Oxford Vaccine Group

In 2018 we funded a state of the art piece of equipment to support the work of The Oxford Vaccine Group who’s remit is to improve the health of children through immunisation. The piece of kit that TOO procured facilitates automated washing of immunological assay plates – so essentially it means that the team can progress more rapidly through their work.

The device will enormously enhance the team’s ability to study the pathogens that cause serious and life- threatening infections in children. Ultimately, this will allow the group to select the best vaccine strategies for many widespread paediatric infections to protect children from severe disease, disability and death. Because the equipment is being used for research purposes, it is not deemed as essential equipment, which would be considered the normal responsibility of the NHS.

This project feels personal to us because it is thought that the reason Oscar died was that he picked up Rota Virus which, in a very very low number of cases, can turn into encephalitis. Encephalitis is a viral inflammation of the brain and is often serious. Rota Virus is a very common, non-life threatening virus which is now vaccinated against. The vaccination was made available to all children literally a few weeks after Oscar was the correct age to be able to receive it, so naturally we are aware, that had the vaccine been available a matter of a few weeks sooner Oscar might be with us today.

Here are some words from the Oxford Vaccine Group on the benefits of the Biotek Washer:

How do we know that the vaccines being investigated work? One of the tests used at the Oxford Vaccine Group is the Enzyme Linked immunospot (ELISPOT). This assay permits the direct visualisation and counting of immune cells activated by vaccination. The immune cells are extracted from participant blood samples and incubated at 37⁰C on microplates. If the cells have been activated by the vaccine, they’ll start producing specific antibodies and immune molecules that will bind to the surface of the microplates and form spots. After various detection steps, these antibodies and molecules can be visualised. Each spot represents one activated cell. The more spots the better!

Fluorescent Elispots: each spot corresponds to one cell stimulated by vaccination. The different colours represent different type of antibodies secreted by these cells.

However only a few samples can fit on a plate and many washes are required during the detection steps. The washes represent a major part of this assay and can be really time consuming. As a result, the number of samples the lab can test is quite limited. Thanks to the biotek washer, it takes now 5 minutes to wash 5 plates against 15 minutes with the manual method.  By considerably reducing the wash steps, the lab can now test a much larger number of samples at the same time.

“The ELISpot washer has increased our productivity and allowed us test a higher number of vaccines for important paediatric infections” Dr Christina Dold

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