In August 2023 CEPI announced a commitment of up to $80 million to support the design, manufacture, and strategies of globally accessible vaccines through a partnership with the University of Oxford. The strategic partnership will “harness University of Oxford’s world-class vaccinology, manufacturing, and trial expertise” with a “demonstrated successful track record of swift response to outbreaks utilising rapid response vaccine technology”. The hope is that this agreement will advance CEPI’s efforts in preparation for Disease X.  

The collaboration will also support “additional activities” and Oxford’s existing network of clinical trial sites around the world so they can “swiftly” test vaccines close to an outbreak’s source. The University will work with local partners on community engagement and social science activities in communities that are affected by pathogens relevant to the partnership, to address vaccine confidence and develop immunisation strategies for when vaccines are available.  

100 Days Mission x ChAdOx 

The partnership will focus on Oxford’s ChAdOx technology and other rapid response vaccine platforms, with the aim of being able to respond to an identified threat within 100 days: the 100 Days Mission. Dr Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s CEO, believes this partnership will make a “vital contribution” to driving the 100 Days Mission.  

“Through this partnership, CEPI will benefit from the expertise of Oxford’s world class team of vaccine scientists, and the institution’s steadfast commitment to global equitable access, as we prepare for future pandemic threats. 

The ChAdOx platform was behind the COVID-19 vaccine that has become “one of the most widely used” in the world, saving over 6 million lives in the early stages of rollout. ChAdOx is described by Dr Hatchett as “one of only a handful of proven rapid response vaccine platforms in the world”, and he hopes it will “build vital components of the Global Vaccine Library” to accelerate vaccine development to “face down the next Disease X”.  

Past, present, and future vaccines 

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard is Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) and investigator at the Pandemic Sciences Institute, Oxford. He reflects on the “ground-breaking commitment from CEPI”, which will “provide momentum” to “drive the critical research that we need” to be better prepared for the future. 

“Building on our extensive experience in vaccine development over the past 30 years and world-leading response to COVID-19 with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, we will strive with CEPI to secure the safety of future generations against the ongoing threats from the microbial world.”  

Professor Teresa Lambe, Calleva Head of Vaccine Immunology, Professor of Vaccinology and Immunology at the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG), and investigator at the Pandemic Sciences Institute commented that the team were able to develop their COVID-19 vaccine at “unprecedented speed”. She suggests that this was “in part” because of “prior work” against MERS, a closely related virus from the same family.  

Disease X: “inevitable” 

CEPI states that an outbreak of a future Disease X is “inevitable”, with the likelihood and frequency of infectious disease outbreaks increasing due to “forces such as globalisation, urbanisation, and climate change”. However, thanks to our scientific advances in response to the pandemic, we are better equipped for this.  

If you’d like to understand a bit more about Disease X, head to our recent post exploring resources available. Don’t forget to subscribe for more like this.  We look forward to hearing more from Professor Pollard at the Congress in Barcelona this October; have you got your tickets yet?