Of the many lessons that we are endeavouring to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of uniting speed with safety is one of the most obvious. With this in mind, in 2021, the world embarked on a joint “mission” to arm ourselves against future threats within 100 days of their identification. At UKHSA, an executive agency sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care, the responsibility of driving this mission forward has been understood. The agency has accepted the role of UK’s Secretariat for the 100 Day Mission. 

Writing for UKHSA, past speaker Professor Isabel Oliver hopes that the agency is “well placed” to work with partners to “keep up momentum” and its own contribution to the “essential mission”. So, what is UKHSA doing already, and what are the goals for the future? 

COVID-19 inspires action 

Professor Oliver acknowledges that the “early days of a pandemic are crucial”, which we felt more acutely than ever in recent history. However, we also learnt the “art of the possible”. When “governments, industry, and academia” collaborated to “translate science into public health action” we were able to achieve astonishing results.  

The 100 Days Mission aims to ensure that the “best weapons”, from diagnostics to therapeutics, can be “deployed” within 100 days of “recognising a new threat”. Although “speed is of the essence”, “health equity” must also be central to every decision, another lesson from COVID-19. 

What does the UK have to offer? 

Professor Oliver suggests that across the 25 recommendations in the Mission, the UK has “much to offer”. She summarises the UK-led projects in her blog: 

  • Surveillance – UKHSA is “scoping a potential networked surveillance capability across the UK”, using “our genomic sequencing capability around the world through our New Variant Assessment Platform”, joining initiatives such as the International Pathogen Surveillance Network, and “continuing to scope and explore the development of wastewater surveillance”.  
  • Cross-diagnostic, therapeutic, and vaccines R&D – The UK is supporting CEPI across a “wide range of their projects”. Other noteworthy contributions to this cause include the recent Moderna partnership to invest in mRNA research and development. 
  • Therapeutics coordination – The UK leads “major studies” into therapeutic efficacy.  
  • Clinical trials/regulation – The UK is “engaged with a wide range of global partners” to promote collaboration in funding and running equitable clinical trials. 
  • Financing and procurement – UKHSA continues the “legacy of the Vaccine Taskforce” by “embedding COVID-19 vaccine supply, commercial, strategy, and analytic responsibilities” throughout the agency.  

The blog concludes with gratitude from Professor Oliver to “colleagues and partners” who have contributed to this “important collective effort so far”.  

“We are looking forward to engaging with a wide array of partners across government, academia, and industry to further enhance this collective effort which could save many lives.”  

How is your country contributing to the global effort, and what could we (collectively) be doing better? To read Professor Oliver’s blog on the UKHSA website click here. To join us for more on the 100 Days Mission goals at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington 2023, get your tickets today.