UK vaccine centre offers opportunity for pandemic preparedness

Vaccine research

A new Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) has been unveiled in the UK, with the aim of building on the UK’s pandemic legacy and helping develop life-saving new vaccines that will fight ‘Disease X‘, a term used because what might trigger the next pandemic is unknown.

The centre is situated at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Porton Down site, where it is co-located with other services delivered separately by partners including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

It forms a major part of UKHSA’s three-year strategy and incorporates over 200 leading scientists working on around 100 wide-ranging projects, including tackling deadly pathogens with pandemic potential.

The centre’s work is conducted throughout the vaccine lifecycle, from early in the vaccine product design through to evaluating vaccine effectiveness. In particular, the centre will target pathogens for which a vaccine does not exist or is not regulated in the UK, or could be improved, such as avian influenza, mpox (monkeypox) or hantavirus.

VDEC’s teams are already running Phase I clinical trials for a potential world-first vaccine against Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, a virus that is spread by the bite of an infected tick and fatal in about 30% of cases.

The 100 Days Mission

VDEC’s work forms a crucial role in the UK’s contribution to the global 100 Days Mission, launched in 2021 under the UK G7 presidency with the ambitious aim of deploying an effective vaccine within 100 days of identifying a new pandemic threat.

Commenting on the opening, Janet Valentine, ABPI Executive Director, Innovation and Research Policy, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that through extraordinary interventions and public sacrifice we could slow down the spread of the virus, but not stop infection, and this came with huge economic and personal cost. But the most important lesson learnt is that the only way to beat a pandemic is by actively seeking and delivering new vaccines and treatments, the sooner, the better.

“This new research centre is an essential national asset, which in partnership with industry, strengthens the UK’s pandemic defences, and takes us closer to our shared 100 Days Mission target to beating any new virus or pathogen.”

DDW podcast: Disease X

In the In Conversation With series, a part of the free DDW podcast, DDW speaks with members of the drug discovery industry about their work and how it helps turn science into business. In the episode below, DDW’s Megan Thomas is in conversation with Kate Kelland, author of Disease X: The 100 Days Mission to End Pandemics, which explores the emergence of the novel coronavirus and the crisis it caused. Listen now:

Edited by Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, Drug Discovery World

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