Ebola and Lassa fever are among the deadly diseases to be tackled in a pioneering new UK project in Oxford.
More than 50 jobs will be created by the new Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre to tackle disease worldwide as well as further boosting the growth of the UK’s £70 billion life sciences industry.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “More than 200 years ago the UK pioneered the first vaccine and with it, smallpox was eradicated. Now as the world is threatened by killers such as Ebola and Lassa fever we will build on our significant heritage and history to fight against them with our unmatched reputation for medical research and innovation.
“The government is investing in pioneering vaccine manufacturing as part of our modern industrial strategy to create more highly skilled jobs, place the NHS at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and deliver the biggest increase in public investment in research and development in UK history.”
Alongside more familiar diseases, populations globally are threatened by new outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and Lassa fever. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an outbreak of Ebola beginning last August has resulted in 357 confirmed cases and 186 deaths, while this year a Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has resulted in 553 confirmed cases and 143 deaths. There are presently no licensed vaccines available for these diseases.
The centre is expected to open in 2022, with the first products expected later that year. Led by the Jenner Institute, a partnership between the University of Oxford and the Pirbright Institute, the new centre has been awarded funding by UK Research and Innovation of £66 million through the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Medicines Manufacturing challenge.
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “Improving the development, production and application of new vaccines against infectious diseases requires expertise and collaboration across academia and industry.
“The Vaccines Manufacturing Centre will play an important role in bringing expertise from industry and academia together to ensure we are prepared to respond to the threats of serious infections, including viruses with the potential to cause major national or global epidemics.”
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund brings together the UK’s world-leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time, backed an increase in public research and development investment in the UK. It marks a significant step in delivering on a major commitment in the Life Sciences Sector Deal, a partnership between government and industry ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of developing innovative new treatments and medical technologies to improve patients’ lives.
Additional funding of £10 million will come from commercial and other partners, including Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. and Merck Sharp and Dohme. The centre will be further supported by expertise and training from GE Healthcare.
Jenner Institute Director, Professor Adrian Hill, said: “This is an exceptional opportunity for the UK to lead in the provision of vaccines against a wide range of outbreak pathogens which threaten to cause major epidemics. The lack of commercial incentive to develop these has now led to this exceptional partnership of major academic and industrial players in the vaccine field, to accelerate a range of vaccines towards large-scale manufacture and stockpile provision for vulnerable populations.
“In parallel, the centre will develop innovative manufacturing technologies with UK companies and universities to support the next generation of life-saving preventive and therapeutic vaccines.”