Research hub aims to tackle spread of new diseases

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has announced its involvement in the development of a new research hub aimed at delivering high-quality vaccines at low cost, with aims of preventing outbreaks of diseases such as Zika and Ebola.

The new Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub is being led by Imperial College London and involves contributions from CPI alongside four UK universities, two UK institutes and global distribution channels.

Currently, immunisation is estimated to avert an estimated two to three million deaths per year, preventing illness from diseases such as measles, mumps and polio.

However, access to vaccines is limited by location, and it is estimated that one in five infants across the world do not have access to basic vaccines.

Effective vaccine distribution is most problematic in economically deprived areas where production and distribution channels can be easily disrupted.

As such, more flexible, modular manufacture and distribution platforms are desired, so that a rapid, tailored response to any emerging threat can be achieved.

The Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub will work with CPI as well as other UK institutions, to address two key challenges:

  1. The design of a flexible modular production system that can be used to manufacture the order of tens of thousands of vaccine doses in a matter of weeks, once a new threat has been identified and sequenced.
  2. Improving and optimising existing manufacturing processes aimed at improving vaccine stability, efficacy, while also reducing the cost of storage and manufacture.

To achieve these goals, scientists will adopt an integrated approach that builds on developments in life sciences, immunology and process systems.

The project has been provided with almost £10 million of funding by the Department for Health over 40 months, and it is being managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Mark Bustard, Business Development Director, Biologics, said: “We are excited to be a partner in this ground-breaking initiative to improve vaccine manufacturing approaches and ensure safe and cost-effective vaccines are rapidly developed, made and deployed in response to serious disease outbreaks around the world.”

Led by Imperial College London, the hub involves CPI, the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham and Cranfield University, as well as the Clinical Biotechnology Centre (CBC) as part of NHS Blood and Transplant, and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC).

The research hub is also partnering with GSK Vaccines Institute for Global Health.

Aiding with the distribution of vaccines, the hub is also collaborating with global vaccine manufacturing networks, Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturing Network (DCVMN) and the African Vaccine Manufacturers Initiative (AVMI), with global research projects taking place in India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Uganda and China before expanding into other countries.

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