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April 22, 2020

UK fast tracks manufacturing centre to support Covid-19 vaccine

By Allie Nawrat

During the daily briefing yesterday, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announced University of Oxford and Jenner Institute researchers are on the verge of starting clinical trials of a vaccine candidate, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. The trials will be supported by the University of Southampton.

A UK innovation hub in Oxfordshire, the Harwell campus, is aiming to support the manufacturing of this vaccine on a larger scale when it gets closer to commercialisation by fast tracking the construction of a highly specialised Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC).

This centre was originally planned to open in 2022, but with now it is expected to be operational in 2021. It is supported by the University of Oxford, Imperial College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as Merck Sharp and Dohme, Johnson and Johnson, and GE Healthcare as industry partners.

VMIC chief executive Dr Matthew Duchars said: “Whilst no-one could have predicted the Covid-19 outbreak we are doing all we can to fast track the build so VMIC is set-up to offer long-term support to the UK’s future vaccines needs whilst simultaneously contributing right now to the vital work that will help us emerge from this pandemic.

“As well as working with the Harwell team and contractors to deliver the build rapidly ahead of schedule, VMIC scientists and engineers are working round the clock as part of the [BioIndustry Association] BiA CoViD19 Taskforce, and alongside Oxford University advising on manufacturing options of the vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, which has recently opened for trial.”

The BiA Covid-19 taskforce is focused on scaling up vaccine manufacturing against the novel coronavirus.

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