£93m factory puts UK at forefront of Covid-19 vaccine production

Posted on 19 May 2020 by Jonny Williamson

The UK government is investing up to £131m in the UK's vaccines infrastructure - £93m to fast track the construction of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, and £38m to create a ‘virtual VMIC’.

Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (vmic) given go ahead to create ‘virtual vmic’, whilet in tandem expanding and fast-tracking permanent vaccines facility

The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for the UK to have its own highly responsive vaccine manufacturing capacity.

The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) is a not-for-profit organisation aiming to provide the UK’s first strategic vaccine development and advanced manufacturing capability.

Two new funding reviews from government will enable VMIC to invest more in technology to increase its manufacturing capacity at its permanent facility (currently being built in Oxfordshire) to produce 70 million vaccine doses in four to six months from opening – a 20-fold 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.

Artists impression of the completed Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre - image courtesy of VMIC

Artists impression of the completed Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre – image courtesy of VMIC

Additionally, a ‘virtual VMIC’ will be created in order to rapidly expand the UK 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 reportedly 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.”

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.

*Header image courtesy of Depositphotos