The UK’s first dedicated Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC), announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark MP, represents a major commercial opportunity and also a new front line in the nation’s defence against global pandemic threats.
To be up and running by 2022, the VMIC addresses the UK’s structural gap in late-stage vaccine manufacturing process development. It will allow development and manufacture of vaccines for clinical trials and at moderate scale for emergency preparedness for epidemic threats to the UK population.
Led by the the University of Oxford’s Jenner 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.
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.'
Located on a new site at The Oxford Science Park, the VMIC will have the potential for additional commercial capability, such as for emergency preparedness, for larger scale manufacturing of vaccines to be funded by industry and the Department of Health and Social Care.
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.'
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.
The £66 million centre 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 UK life sciences research and manufacturing infrastructure, and it is a real honour 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 UK Research and Innovation, as part of the UK 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 UK – which will run the centre: the University of Oxford, Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
VMIC-UK 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 UK government will be able to use the VMIC to manufacture vaccines rapidly in the event of a pandemic affecting the UK, for example influenza, and it will also enable rapid global response to emerging highly infectious epidemic pathogens such as Ebola and Zika.
The centre will innovate new technologies including manufacture of personalised 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 UK’s leadership position in this area, increase UK productivity, and stimulate further investment in this sector within the UK.
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 UK has over 1,300 companies involved in medicines manufacturing, the direct gross value added (GVA) per UK 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 UK economy, support high-value, highly-skilled manufacturing, and increase productivity.