Research hub launches to drive vaccine development

Pixabay. Credit:  Angelo Esslinger

Pixabay. Credit: Angelo Esslinger

UCL is leading a new a vaccine research hub, launching today, to affect radical change in the development and manufacturing of vaccines, with the University of Oxford.

The Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax-Hub) has been awarded almost seven million pounds of UK aid funding via the Department of Health and Social Care, which will be managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

It will bring together academia, industry and policy makers and will work to improve responses to outbreaks of pandemics such as Swine Flu and Ebola.

The multidisciplinary team assembled at the Hub will work to address five major challenges facing vaccine manufacturing and deployment:

Dr Tarit Mukhopadhyay (UCL Biochemical Engineering) said: "Vaccines are the most successful public health initiative of the 20th century. Today, vaccine supply and affordability are the two key issues that limit our ability to eradicate disease, reach immunisation goals and respond to epidemics.

"Many vaccines use manufacturing processes that are 50-60 years old and have resulted in supply interruptions in the UK and developing nations. This investment will create tools and novel manufacturing technologies that will modernise vaccine manufacturing processes that were established in the last century, such that these life-saving medicines are available to all, irrespective of economic circumstance."

Professor Philip Nelson (EPSRC Executive Chair) said: "According to the UN, last year vaccines saved the lives of up to three million children. Sadly, despite the progress that has been made, it is also estimated that as many as a quarter of deaths among children under five could have been prevented through the use of vaccines.

"By bringing together a multidisciplinary team from across academia, industry and policy makers, Vax-Hub aims to continue the progress that has already been made and save many lives in the future. It will address key challenges in vaccine manufacturing and ensure that the lessons learned and new approaches developed can be applied in the low and middle income countries which need vaccines most."

The Vax-Hub partners are UCL; University of Oxford; Activirosomes Ltd; AstraZeneca; BIA Separations; BioLogicB; LLC; Centre for Process Innovation; Darlington; DCVMN; FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies UK Ltd; GE (General Electric Company); hVIVO; iQur Ltd; Merck KGaA; Pall Europe Ltd; Pfizer; ProBioMed; Prokarium Ltd; Public Health England; Sanofi (International); UK BioIndustry Association; Vironova.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation.

Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future UK prosperity by contributing to a healthy, connected, resilient, productive nation.

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