The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) announced a £12 million investment to fund the Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub until 2030. This is one of two initiatives worth £24 million to “help the UK lead the world in preparedness for pandemic and epidemics” as well as in “delivering secure food supplies”. The Hub is led by the University of Oxford and University College London. It aims to place the UK as a “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.”
Investing in R&D
The Minister of State for Science, Research, and Innovation, George Freeman, said that this was part of a “record £52 billion investment” into “public research and development”.
“We are investing in novel vaccine development, pandemic preparedness, and agri-food security as some of the biggest global challenges we face”.
He suggested that the UK has a “long history of pioneering vaccine research and development”.
“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.”
The Future Vaccines Manufacturing Hub will be co-directed by Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert at Oxford and Professor Martina Micheletti from UCL. It also involves researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Leeds, and University of Manchester. It follows in the footsteps of Vax-Hub1, from 2018, which enabled the Oxford-AstraZeneca collaboration to produce and deliver the COVID-19 vaccines.
Oxford University outlines the aims of the Hub, which will draw on “expertise and experience from academia, industry, policymakers, and the not-for-profit sector”:
- Deliver flexible new underlying platform technologies to manufacture different types of vaccine
- Develop improved, streamlined manufacturing processes, with a focus on product quality and stability
- Make mass programmes of non-invasive vaccination a reality within its lifetime
Improvements to make
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert recognised the rapid work of vaccine developers in 2020 to “achieve licensure of COVID-19 vaccines” through “multiple technologies”. However, she identifies a need for “many improvements” to be made.
“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.”
Professor Martina Micheletti hopes the funding will enable the team to “streamline” the manufacturing of next-generation vaccines with “new and innovative responsive technologies and digitalisation tools”. These would promote “faster lower volume studies and deliver quicker results”.
“This will enable us to minimise environmental impact by saving material and sharing resources.”
Professor Dame Lynn Gladden is Executive Chair of EPSRC. She highlighted that COVID-19 gave a “graphic demonstration of the importance of vaccine discovery and manufacturing to pandemic preparedness”. The Hub will make a “game-changing contribution” to this area.
“Enabling the UK to provide global leadership, they will generate benefits not just in every region of this country but also national and international level.”
For more on innovation and financial partnerships to promote better technologies, join us in Barcelona for the World Vaccine Congress Europe this year.