New vaccines center to protect U.K. from pandemic threats

It will provide the infrastructure to develop vaccine manufacturing processes (TRL5-9+) at scale, building on the existing MRC and BBSRC funded work at TRL 2-4.

Oxford says that the £66 million center will be a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility, allowing for academic and industry collaboration on the development, design and manufacture of vaccines. In that regard it fulfils a similar role to the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre.

Piers Scrimshaw-Wright, Managing Director of The Oxford Science Park, said: “The Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre will be a major part of the U.K. life sciences research and manufacturing infrastructure, and it is a real honor for us that it will be located here. It complements our long-term commitment to science, innovation and entrepreneurship in Oxford, and we look forward to working with the VMIC team as the facility takes shape.”

The Centre’s main grant funding comes through U.K. Research and Innovation, as part of the U.K. government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). Additional funding of £10 million will come from commercial and other partners, including Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD). The Centre will be further supported by bioprocessing expertise and training from GE Healthcare.

Three academic institutions joined forces in the new company – VMIC U.K.– which will run the center: the University of Oxford, Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

VMIC-U.K. will be supported by two industrial partners with extensive experience in vaccine manufacturing and development (Janssen, part of Johnson and Johnson, and MSD); expertise and training in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment will be provided by GE Healthcare.

The U.K. government will be able to use the VMIC to manufacture vaccines rapidly in the event of a pandemic affecting the U.K., for example influenza, and it will also enable rapid global response to emerging highly infectious epidemic pathogens such as Ebola and Zika.

The center will innovate new technologies including manufacture of personalized cancer vaccines and vectors for gene therapy.

The VMIC is part of the ISCF’s Leading Edge Healthcare challenge theme, (including Medicines Manufacturing) aiming to speed up patient access to new medicines and treatments, build on the U.K.’s leadership position in this area, increase U.K. productivity, and stimulate further investment in this sector within the U.K.

The Leading Edge Healthcare challenge overall is investing over £180 million over the 2018-21 period in the areas of advanced therapies, medicines and vaccines development and manufacturing, alongside an estimated £250 million of private funding from industry.

The U.K. has over 1,300 companies involved in medicines manufacturing, the direct gross value added (GVA) per U.K. employee is greater that £150,000, and the sector produced £26 billion in exports in 2015. The challenge should return a value of £1 billion to the U.K. economy, support high-value, highly-skilled manufacturing, and increase productivity.