Four new research hubs that will address challenges of vaccine manufacturing and delivery in developing countries have been announced.

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UK Minister for Health and Secondary Care, Will Quince, launched the hubs at a meeting on science, technology and health cooperation between the UK and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The meeting included the Secretary General of ASEAN, Dr Kao Kim Hourn and UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation George Freeman.

Communicable disease epidemics are still a major threat to public health globally. They are responsible for half of all deaths in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). It is estimated that 25 million children are under or unvaccinated. However, vaccines have now been developed for more than 20 life threatening diseases.

Lessons from Covid

The hubs will be led by Imperial College London, University College London, University of Oxford and The University of Sheffield working with experts from across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Together, they will use the lessons from the global rollout of COVID vaccines to improve the processes of manufacture and distribution in LMICs.

The vaccine hubs have received a share of £33 million of UK aid funding via the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and a further £1.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The hubs will be part of the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) project, which aims to develop vaccines for diseases with epidemic potential in LMICs.

The EPSRC co-funding will leverage the impact of the hubs’ research for the UK, delivering against EPSRC priorities to transform health and healthcare.

The hubs

Future manufacturing vaccine hub: accelerating the manufacture and deployment of cost-effective vaccines

Professor Robin Shattock, Imperial College London

This hub aims to build flexible, low-cost and scalable manufacturing and deployment of vaccines. Projects will be carried out in Vietnam, Bangladesh and South Africa, expanding to other countries during the project.

Chanjo: catalysing the African vaccine manufacturing ecosystem

Professor Faith Osier, Imperial College London

This hub is an African-led, academic-industry consortium that will research, develop, and establish local vaccine manufacturing for endemic diseases of importance to Africa, with a focus on Kenya and Ghana.

Vaccines manufacturing hub for LMIC (Vax-Hub-Global)

Professor Martina Micheletti, University College London and Dr Catherine Green, University of Oxford

The vision of the hub is to deliver flexible, easily transferable multi-product platforms and simplified engineering solutions that enable development of low cost, effective and globally deployable vaccines to LMICs.

UK-south-east Asia-vaccine manufacturing research hub

Professor Tuck Seng Wong, The University of Sheffield

This hub will build a diversified, robust, sustainable and equitable vaccine manufacturing ecosystem in southeast Asian nations.

The hub will bring together expertise and infrastructure in Sheffield and south-east Asian partners and will focus primarily on dengue and hand, foot and mouth disease.

Health outcomes 

Professor Miles Padgett, Interim Executive Chair of EPSRC, said: ”These hubs will improve immunisation in low and middle-income countries by addressing challenges in the way vaccines are made and delivered.

“The Department of Health and Social Care and EPSRC are funding research that tackles large-scale, complex challenges and improves health outcomes across the globe.”

UK Minster for Health and Secondary Care, Will Quince, said: ”I’m thrilled that the UK is building on its strong working relationship with global researchers by funding these innovative vaccine hubs, which will support partners across Africa and South East Asia to improve vaccine manufacturing capability.

”These innovative partnerships between British universities and vaccine developers – with £33 million of UK aid funding – will ensure vaccines are accessible to everyone in need, and allow us to future-proof health systems both here and abroad by accelerating the availability of new vaccines for future pandemics.”