Serum Life Sciences is wholly-owned by the Poonawalla family, owners of the Serum Institute of India, who have dedicated their life’s work to the development, manufacture and supply of affordable vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
The Poonawalla Vaccines Research Building will be built on the same site as the recently announced Oxford University Pandemic Sciences Centre, on the University’s Old Road Campus. The buildings will share infrastructure and support facilities for scientific research and academic teaching and together will form a unique hub that will significantly contribute to global pandemic preparedness and responsiveness.
The main focus of the research taking place in the Poonawalla Building will be vaccinology. This new facility will be able to house more than 300 research scientists and itself will provide the focus and scale for the University’s major vaccine development programmes allowing a rapid, productive and timely expansion of this fast-growing translational area.
The donation reinforces and builds on the Serum Institute of India’s long-standing partnership with Oxford University. Importantly, the Poonawalla Building will house the headquarters and main laboratory space of the Jenner Institute, the world-leading academic vaccine institute named after Edward Jenner, the father of vaccination (who interestingly enough was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire). The most recent Serum Institute-Jenner Institute collaboration saw the rapid development and global roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at scale.
Further Serum Institute-Jenner Institute collaborations include an agreement for Serum Institute to manufacture and develop, with large scale supply, the Jenner Institute’s promising R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine, currently in Phase III trials, prioritising countries with high malaria burdens.
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘The University has longstanding ties with the Poonawalla family and we were delighted to confer an honorary degree on Cyrus Poonawalla in Summer 2019 in recognition of his extraordinary work manufacturing inexpensive vaccines for the developing world. I am delighted that through this generous gift we will be able to further our work on vaccines which have proven so critical to global health. We will also ensure that we are never again caught unprepared for a global pandemic.’
Natasha Poonawalla, Chair, Serum Life Sciences, said: ‘We are delighted to make this £50 million commitment to the University of Oxford, for the building of The Poonawalla Vaccines Research Building. Vaccines save lives, and the development of vaccines has been the lifelong focus of the Poonawalla family. We are committed to developing and supplying vaccines to people who need them most. To make this happen, we build many scientific collaborations with the world’s leading research institutes but today, we are making this keystone donation to give the world-class team at Oxford a brand-new facility from which to take their research to the next level.’
Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University said. ‘The striking success of the collaborative programmes on both the malaria and COVID-19 vaccines between the Serum Institute of India and Oxford University has highlighted the great potential of partnerships between leading Universities and large-scale manufacturers to develop and supply vaccines for very cost-effective deployment at exceptional scale. We look forward to a wider range of vaccine activities in the future building on this generous support from the Poonawalla family.’
Professor Sir Peter Horby, Director, Pandemic Sciences Centre, said: ‘The COVID pandemic has shown us our strengths and weaknesses. Whilst we cannot eliminate risk, we have shown that innovation, determination and partnership can transform our ability to counter and constrain global health threats. This generous gift will help create a world-leading hub for pandemic research and innovation; a scientific power-house dedicated to protecting health for all.’