UK’s first dedicated Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre to open at Harwell

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The UK’s first dedicated Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC), which this magazine first reported on last December, will be located at Harwell Campus. Funded through a £67 million grant from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, VMIC will provide facilities and expertise to accelerate vaccine research in the UK and establish the UK’s first vaccines advanced manufacturing capabilities.

VMIC has been founded by three academic institutions, The University of Oxford, Imperial College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,  with support from Industrial partners MSD, Johnson and Johnson, and GE Healthcare. Through working with academic and industry partners, VMIC aims to stimulate and accelerate early stage clinical development, whilst also serving as an emergency response capability for the UK Government to produce vaccines against specific threats, such as epidemics, emerging infectious diseases, and deliberate/accidental release of biological agents.

Headshot picture 2019 Matthew Duchars 1024x683 - Dr Matthew Duchars to Head up £67Million Cutting-Edge Vaccines Centre at Harwell CampusHeading up the Centre will be newly appointed Chief Executive Dr Matthew Duchars who has worked in the biotechnology business for more than 30 years and is experienced in providing strategic direction and technical leadership for the development of medical countermeasures. Welcoming Dr Duchars to his new role, Sir Mark Walport Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation said, “Dr Duchars will provide strategic leadership for the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre. His expertise and experience will ensure that the Centre will get off to a strong start when it opens in 2022. His appointment underlines our commitment to support this vital work in the field of vaccines, which will protect the public and support our burgeoning biotech sector.”

Commenting on his new role, Dr Duchars talked about the need to make a difference not just in the UK but abroad, “This is a great time to join such an exciting and prestigious venture. We are assembling a team of leading experts in vaccine science and manufacturing, as well as building a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. This will make a real difference as we fight to prevent some of the most dangerous diseases from infecting people, both at home and around the world.”

Sitting within the Harwell HealthTec Cluster, comprising 1,000 people across 40 organisations, VMIC will form part of a well-established and proven life sciences community where it will grow to become a vital component of the UK’s national scientific infrastructure. Angus Horner, Partner and Director at Harwell Campus concluded, “VMIC will be ideally located within a proven and powerful life sciences community, where advantage is secured via access to an exceptionally skilled talent pool, world renowned expertise and globally important science infrastructure. Harwell’s people are hugely excited about VMIC having its new home inside the Harwell HealthTec Cluster which will catalyse even stronger collaboration between VMIC, leading research facilities and industry partners as they generate new vaccines solutions and scale up manufacturing.”