● A ‘virtual VMIC’ will be created to rapidly expand the UK capacity to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine
● VMIC’s permanent facility, currently being built, will be fast tracked to come online in Summer 2021 – a year ahead of schedule.
● Manufacturing output at the permanent facility will be scaled-up 20fold to ensure enough doses of a pandemic vaccine for the UK population within 4-6 months of opening.
Harwell, Oxfordshire: Announced today, the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) will create a ‘virtual VMIC’ in order to rapidly expand the UK capacity to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine. Alongside this, VMIC will invest in more technology to increase its manufacturing capacity at its permanent facility (currently being built) to produce 70million vaccine doses in 4-6 months from opening – a 20fold increase from current figures. Furthermore, the facility’s building schedule will be accelerated to allow it to come online in Summer 2021 – a year ahead of schedule.
VMIC, a not-for-profit organisation providing the UK’s first strategic vaccine development and advanced manufacturing capability, has been awarded up to £131million by the Government in two funding reviews which see investment in the UK’s vaccines infrastructure – £93million to expand the facility’s capabilities and fast track the build, and £38million to create ‘virtual VMIC’.
A virtual VMIC will mean procuring manufacturing equipment, recruiting highly-specialist people, and securing physical space to create a temporary manufacturing centre ready to make vaccines at pace and scale once a viable COVID-19 vaccine has been found. Virtual VMIC will be rolled-out through collaboration with industry partners and is supported by the national vaccines industry taskforce, coordinated by the BioIndustry Association.
Experts at VMIC have been working around the clock as part of the national taskforce where they advise on how manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine candidates can be scaled-up. They also play a key role in the consortium led by The Jenner Institute which has opened trials for its adenovirus vaccine candidate at the University of Oxford.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “As the biggest contributor to the international coalition to find a vaccine, the UK is leading the global response. Once a breakthrough is made, we need to be ready to manufacture a vaccine by the millions.”
Dr Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive, The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre said: “Today’s announcement by Alok Sharma underscores the Government’s commitment to increase the vaccines infrastructure for the UK and is an endorsement of VMIC’s role in the current and future domestic supply of vaccines.
“This means we can charge forward in three vital areas. First, we will fast track our facility’s build timeline to open a year ahead of schedule. Second, we will expand our R&D capability and increase our output capacity, so we can develop and scale-up multiple vaccines simultaneously and be able to manufacture them in response to a pandemic. All this will result in faster development of new vaccines.
“Third we will work with partners to create a ‘virtual VMIC’ to manufacture vaccine for COVID-19 this year, while our permanent facility is still under construction. Our priority will be to create a temporary centre to manufacture millions of doses of vaccine, as soon as a vaccine has been found.”
Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer of CEPI said: “The UK has shown great leadership in the global response to COVID-19, providing crucial support for the development of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments against the virus.
“CEPI applauds the UK’s latest pledge to scale-up funding for the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, which comes at a crucial point in the world’s response to the virus.
“This funding will enable the centre to come online much sooner than expected and will hopefully enable it to play an important role in manufacturing safe, effective, and globally accessible vaccines against COVID-19, once they have undergone necessary testing and regulatory approval.”
Speaking from one of VMIC’s founding organisations Professor Robin Shattock of Imperial College London said: “The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for the UK to have its own highly responsive vaccine manufacturing capacity, this new funding will ensure VMIC will be able to meet these challenges and open its doors in record time.”
The permanent VMIC facility will be located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. The state-of-the-art facility will house specialist equipment drawing on both innovative and traditional technologies. It is envisaged that much of the work at the new facility will be collaborative ventures with organisations ranging from small and medium sized businesses, through to large multinationals and NGOs such as Wellcome and CEPI, thereby underpinning the activity and strength of the UK in the vaccine area.