The major funding boost, from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), will enable VaxHub to continue its work making the UK the global centre for end-to-end vaccine discovery, development and manufacture - leading global preparedness for future pandemics and epidemics. The Hub will widen the expertise and experience it draws on from academia, industry, policymakers and the not-for-profit sector.
Co-Director Professor Martina Micheletti (UCL Biochemical Engineering) said: "This funding will allow us to streamline our manufacturing process of next generation vaccines by using new and innovative responsive technologies and digitalisation tools, such as robotics and automation, enabling us to run faster lower volume studies and deliver quicker results.
"This will enable us to minimise environmental impact by saving material and sharing resources. The Hub builds on a long-term collaboration between UCL and the University of Oxford, supported by excellent complementary expertise from academic partners and from some existing and new industrial collaborators."
VaxHub will continue to drive radical change, using new technologies that can manufacture many different types of vaccine faster and more efficiently. It will also work to create large-scale programmes of non-invasive vaccinations (such as oral vaccines) within the Hub’s lifetime.
Co-Director Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert (University of Oxford) added: " Although vaccine developers worked rapidly in 2020 to achieve licensure of Covid-19 vaccines using multiple different technologies, there are still many improvements that can be made in vaccine manufacturing.
"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."
In 2020 Vax-Hub developed one of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccines with AstraZeneca and delivered 2.9 billion doses to 180 countries worldwide.
The funding announcement from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UKRI, forms part of a larger investment including the Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub, led by the University of Bath, focusing on using cell-level processes to revolutionise food production.
Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair, said: "Covid-19 has given a graphic demonstration of the vital importance of vaccine discovery and manufacturing to pandemic preparedness. The need to provide plentiful, affordable, nutritious food supplies across the planet is also one of the 21 century’s big challenges.
"Our two new Manufacturing Research Hubs will make a crucial contribution in these areas. Enabling the UK to provide global leadership, they will generate benefits not just in every region of this country but also at national and international level."
Vax-Hub is led by UCL with the University of Oxford, and in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Leeds and University of Manchester.
Kate Corry(0)20 3108 6995
Email: k.corry [at] ucl.ac.uk
- University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000