The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has announced a £12 million investment to fund the Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub for the next seven years, up to 2030.
Led by the University of Oxford and University College London (UCL), the Hub aims to make the UK the global centre for vaccine discovery, development, and manufacture. This will help save lives by enabling rapid roll-out of highly effective new vaccines for frontline use.
Minister of State for Science, Research & Innovation George Freeman said: ‘As part of our record £52 billion investment in public research and development over the next 3 years, we are investing in novel vaccine development, pandemic preparedness, and agri-food security as some of the biggest global challenges we face.’
‘The UK has a long history of pioneering vaccine research and development and this funding will help ensure the UK is well placed to help develop the science, technology and innovation the UK and the planet needs to ensure economic resilience in the face of growing global threats.’
Vaccine delivery fast-tracked
The Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub will be co-directed by Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford and Prof Martina Micheletti at UCL.
The Hub is a follow-on from Vax-Hub1, formed in 2018, which helped the Oxford University-AstraZeneca collaboration produce one of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines and deliver 2.9 billion doses to 180 countries worldwide.
Drawing on expertise and experience from academia, industry, policy-makers and the not-for-profit sector, the new Hub aims to:
- deliver flexible new underlying (‘platform’) technologies that can manufacture many different types of vaccine;
- develop improved, streamlined manufacturing processes, with a key focus on product quality and stability;
- make mass programmes of non-invasive vaccination (e.g. using oral vaccines) a reality within the Hub’s lifetime.
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Pandemic Sciences Institute at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Although vaccine developers worked rapidly in 2020 to achieve licensure of COVID-19 vaccines using multiple different technologies, there are still many improvements that can be made in vaccine manufacturing.’
‘In the next iteration of VaxHub we will work to increase sustainability of vaccine manufacturing by improving manufacturing yields, improving thermostability so that vaccines do not need to be refrigerated or frozen for storage and distribution, and assess alternative ways of making vaccines available for mass immunisation when needed.’
Besides UCL and the University of Oxford, the Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub involves researchers from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Leeds, and University of Manchester.
More information on the announcement can be found on the EPSRC website here.