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Imperial College London leads newly launched hub for manufacturing vaccines

imperial_college_londonA £10 million Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub led by Imperial College London has been officially launched.

The Hub, which involves various research partners, will be led by Professor Robin Shattock from Imperial’s Department of Medicine and involves scientists across Departments of Chemical Engineering and Life Sciences. The researchers at the Hub aim to improve the response to viral outbreaks, like those caused by Zika and Ebola, by distributing vaccines quickly and more cost-effectively.

Professor Shattock said: “Through the establishment of the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub, we will exploit the latest advances in biotechnology to rapidly respond to emerging outbreaks. We will also help to empower countries most at risk of infection to meet their local vaccine needs.”

Nearly one in five infants across the world, currently don’t have access to basic vaccines. Almost one third of deaths among children under five could be prevented through vaccine use.

Distributing vaccines in developing countries, particularly in rural areas, is often difficult due to costs associated with producing, transporting, and storing the vaccines using limited resources.

Scientists in developing countries also tend to be under-equipped to quickly and effectively respond to rapidly spreading viral outbreaks, as seen with Zika and Ebola.

The Hub’s team will focus on designing a production system that can quickly provide tens of thousands of new vaccine doses within weeks of a new threat being identified.

“Vaccines and their availability can mean the difference between life and death for millions of people across the globe.”– Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive, EPSRC

They also aim to improve the current processes by changing how vaccines are manufactured, stored, and transported so that new and existing diseases can be prevented from emerging and spreading.

The hub team will develop synthetic RNA vaccines that can be made and deployed rapidly in an outbreak setting, and to engineer yeast and bacteria to generate low cost particle based vaccines that mimic components of viruses and bacteria to induce protective immunity. They will also make vaccines that can withstand extreme temperatures, avoiding the need for refrigerated distribution and storage.

The new Hub is funded by the Department of Health and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “Vaccines and their availability can mean the difference between life and death for millions of people across the globe. Many of these deaths, whether they are a result of polio, diphtheria or measles, could be prevented through immunisation, and research at the Hub will look to overcome barriers currently blocking progress in this field.

“At the same time, this investment will also support the researchers as they strive to develop ways to respond rapidly and efficiently to threats such as Ebola and Zika and save many lives in the future.”

 Source: Imperial College

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