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‘Virtual VMIC’ to expand UK’s capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine

20 May 2020

The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) is investing in more technology to increase manufacturing capacity at a new facility, currently being built in Oxfordshire.

Image courtesy of VMIC

The Vaccines Manufacturing & Innovation Centre (VMIC), a not-for-profit organisation providing the UK’s first strategic vaccine development & advanced manufacturing capability, has been awarded up to £131 million by the government, boosting investment in the UK’s vaccines infrastructure and increasing capacity to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine.

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.

The government will also invest up to £93 million to accelerate construction of a new Vaccines Manufacturing & Innovation Centre which, when completed, will have capacity to produce enough vaccine doses to serve the entire UK population in as little as six months. The funding will ensure the centre opens in Summer 2021, a full 12 months ahead of schedule.

The new VMIC, which is already under construction, is a key component of the government’s coronavirus vaccine programme – ensuring that once a vaccine is available, it can be produced quickly and in mass quantities.

Under construction on the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, the new Centre will be the UK’s first not-for-profit organisation established to develop and advance the mass production of vaccines. This will boost the UK’s long-term capacity against future viruses. It will also accelerate the production of vaccines for existing illnesses, such as the flu virus.

While the Centre is being built, the government will also establish a rapid deployment facility, thanks to a further investment of £38 million, to begin manufacturing at scale from Summer 2020. This facility will support efforts to ensure a vaccine is widely available to the public as soon as possible.

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.”

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