The Oxford University Jenner Institute Virtual Tour

The Oxford University Jenner Institute Virtual Tour

Bringing better public engagement to vital vaccine research 

The Jenner Institute was founded in 2005 as part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford. Their work includes designing, testing, and manufacturing vaccines for diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. The institute is famous for researching and developing the Covid-19 Oxford vaccine, otherwise known as the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Understanding the Jenner Institute’s aims and objectives 

Open door events and science festivals are some of the staple public engagement strategies the Jenner institute relies upon to inform the public about their work. These events help the researchers show the world the fantastic work they do and answer any questions people have about their work. 

But some areas within the research facility are dangerous and aren’t suitable for public access, even under supervision. Category 3 labs, which contain deadly pathogens like tuberculosis, are one example. Besides, in-person tours can be disruptive to the institute’s work and take much time and effort to organise. 

When the UK entered lockdown in 2020, the Jenner team decided to find a new way to explain their work to the public. One that didn’t require opening their physical doors to the public. The solution had to be implemented quickly as Covid-19 vaccine development was drawing huge media focus. 

The Jenner team quickly developed some YouTube videos and guides to showcase and explain some of their work. But they sought a way to group their educational resources into one logical place. They also wanted to show their work within the context of the lab. 

While searching for some ideas, the team noticed the Pirbright institute using virtual tours with great success. After some consultation, the team contacted 360 virtual tours to start organising their tour. 

Creating the virtual tour

The first phase involved agreeing on project aims with the Jenner institute to ensure a streamlined process. It was vital for us to identify which areas needed photographing before we arrived. The Jenner team highlighted which areas they wanted to include in advance, which sped up the process. 

Once we had agreed on the project aims, we moved on to the second phase: choosing information points. 

Information points are interactive stops on the tour showing images, text, or photos. They contain information relevant to the areas they are in and are an essential ingredient for creating virtual tours. The Jenner team chose to include some of their existing media as information points. 

Once we had finalised the tour areas and information points, our team arrived at the Jenner institute to capture the photos we needed. As the institute was carrying out critical vaccine research, we planned our site visit to minimise disruption to their work. 

On arrival, the Jenner team showed our photographers exactly where they needed to be. We took photos in the immunology laboratory, the tissue culture room, the category 3 laboratory, and many others.   

We then ran the photos through our editing process to remove shadows, reflections, and inconsistencies. We also created a custom tour skin to compliment the Jenner institute’s branding colours. Lastly, we added a numbered menu to help users navigate through the tour. 

An innovative way to showcase vaccine research

The Jenner tour takes users on an engaging journey through the vaccine development process. It provides an interactive way for the institute to showcase and explain the incredible work they do. 

The virtual tour has benefited the institute in two main ways.

First, it provides schools, colleges, and other universities with answers to common questions about vaccine research and lab work. Also, the interactive elements of the tour are useful resources for educational presentations about scientific research or careers. 

Second, the virtual tour ensures the institute’s work is accurately presented to the public. Storing all the relevant information in one place gives journalists a helpful resource to better understand and share the science with the public. 

We used 360 Virtual Tours to create a virtual tour of our academic institute/laboratories for public engagement purposes. The process and costs were very clear and the end product was exactly as expected, on time and high quality. I would use them again and recommend them for others in the scientific industry or academia.

Dr Sean Elias
University of Oxford