The Australian boss of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which produced the first major vaccine for COVID-19, has been given a knighthood by the Queen.

Sir Pascal Soriot, who has dual citizenship and spent much of his time during the coronavirus pandemic in Australia, has been knighted for services to UK life sciences and the response to COVID-19.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was approved in December 2020, and jabs were initially rolled out among the older and the most vulnerable in society.

“I am truly humbled by this recognition,” Sir Pascal said in a statement.

“Growing up in France, I had many dreams and hopes for the future, but I never thought I would receive a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen.

“As an Australian citizen, it is a great privilege to receive this award and an honour to work with so many outstanding people around the world dedicated to following the science in order to bring medicines to patients.

“This recognition is also theirs and I would like to thank each of them for their commitment to our mission.

“I am also grateful to my family for their support in enabling me to pursue a career doing what I love.”

AstraZeneca chair Leif Johansson applauded Sir Pascal’s knighthood, saying he was dedicated to scientific advances.

“I know all of the team will join me and many others in the UK, and around the world, in congratulating Pascal on this well-deserved honour as we also celebrate Her Majesty’s historic jubilee this year,” he said.

AstraZeneca played a crucial role in the global battle against COVID-19.

It famously made its vaccine available at no profit and most of the doses supplied since have been at cost. 

More than three billion doses have been delivered to more than 180 countries, including Australia.

Sir Pascal, who is a doctor of veterinary medicine, has been CEO of AstraZeneca since 2012.

He was previously the chief operating officer of Roche’s pharmaceuticals division from 2010 to September 2012.

Before that, he was CEO of Genentech, a biologics business, where he led its merger with Roche.

According to the AstraZeneca website, Sir Pascal joined the pharmaceutical industry in 1986 and has worked in senior management roles in numerous major companies around the world.