An accelerated building programme will see a centre dedicated to the manufacture of vaccines open in 2021 close to ESA in the UK. The facility at the Harwell Science Innovation Campus will aid the international coronavirus response – which is also supported by ESA – as well as helping to combat future public health emergencies.
To speed up the building process, the local council granted permission for the construction of the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre to begin while much of the planning work is still taking place behind the scenes.
Although the centre is still being constructed, the staff who will eventually work there are already contributing to the government’s national response to COVID-19. As part of a ‘virtual Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre’, scientists and engineers are advising on scaling up the manufacture of vaccines and establishing a rapid deployment centre to increase the supply of a vaccine being jointly developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
The centre will also have an important role in the responses to future public health challenges, with the day-to-day work focusing on manufacturing vaccines for a wide range of conditions.
Following funding from the government funding body UK Research and Innovation, as well as further investment from industry partners, the centre is working to have the capability to deliver 70 million doses of vaccines 4-6 months after opening.
Normally it would take years to secure planning permission for such a project, but given its critical role, the local council decided to take a different approach by fast-tracking the application process.
The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre will join a community at Harwell that is committed to helping tackle coronavirus.
ESA Space Solutions has funded several proposals to support the coronavirus response – including a fleet of drones that will support the NHS by delivering COVID-19 test kits to medical practices in remote areas.
The ESA Business Incubation Centre UK (ESA BIC UK), which is part of ESA Space Solutions, also has a location on the Harwell campus and has supported start-ups in developing innovative solutions to help overcome COVID-19.
The Crowdless app, developed by ESA BIC UK incubatee Lanterne, empowers people to comply with social distancing guidelines to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
Matthew Duchars, chief executive of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, said: “We are extremely grateful to all the teams involved in working together to secure planning permission by moving at such a phenomenal speed. This decision by the council gained us three critical months in our race to build a pandemic-capable vaccine manufacturing facility, during which time we were able to go from a grass-covered site to completion of the superstructure.”
Andy Jones, medicines manufacturing challenge director at UK Research and Innovation, said: “When we provided start-up funding for the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, we recognised that we needed both innovative approaches to vaccine development and the ability to deliver vaccines at speed and in sufficient volume. The rapid approval of the centre will play a vital role in helping this become a reality so that vaccines innovators, including industry and academia, can more effectively tackle the healthcare challenges of the future.”
Elodie Viau, head of ESA’s facility at Harwell, said: “We look forward to welcoming the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovations Centre to the Harwell Campus. The work to be completed at the facility, as well as other activities undertaken across campus, will ensure that Harwell continues to contribute European responses and space-based solutions to current and future global pandemics.”
The Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre was founded by the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.