Government announces £100m for COVID-19 vaccine centre

The UK’s capability to manufacture vaccines has received a substantial boost, as the government announced an additional £100 million to ensure that any successful COVID-19 vaccine can be produced at scale.

The investment will fund a state-of-the-art Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Innovation Centre. Due to open in December 2021, the centre will have the capacity to produce millions of doses each month, ensuring the UK has the capabilities to manufacture vaccines and advanced medicines, including for emerging diseases in the future.

Located in Braintree, Essex, the government initiative will upgrade an existing facility to create a fully-licensed manufacturing centre. Doing so will increase the UK’s ability to respond to diseases like Coronavirus and to prepare for potential future pandemics while creating new, high-skilled jobs to fuel the UK’s economic recovery.

The new centre will complement the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, which is currently under construction in Oxfordshire after a £93 million investment from the government. Once complete next year, the facility will have the capacity to produce enough vaccine doses to serve the entire UK population.

While the centre is under construction, the government has invested an additional £38 million to establish a rapid deployment facility, opening later this summer, that will support efforts to ensure a successful vaccine is widely available to the public as soon as possible.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: "This new Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Innovation Centre, alongside crucial investment in skills, will support our efforts to rapidly produce millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine while ensuring the UK can respond quickly to potential future pandemics."

To support these enhanced vaccine manufacturing capabilities, the government will invest an additional £4.7 million for the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult to ensure that the UK has the best skills and expertise through the development of virtual and physical national Centres for Advanced Therapies Training and Skills, in partnership with industry.

The facilities and online training platform will provide industry-standard skills and experience in advanced gene therapy and vaccine manufacturing, including sterile techniques for Good Manufacturing Practice, which is the minimum standard that a medicines manufacturer must meet in their production processes.

Employment in the cell and gene therapy sector is predicted to reach over 6,000 jobs by 2024, with over 3,000 in manufacturing and bioprocessing.

Kate Bingham, chair of the Vaccines Taskforce, added: "In order to vaccinate our high-risk populations at the earliest opportunity, the government has agreed to proactively manufacture vaccines now, so we have millions of doses of vaccine ready if they are shown to be safe and effective.

"The acquisition of this state-of-the-art manufacturing centre will not only help us with this, but also ensures we are well-placed as a country to be able to cope with any pandemics or health crises in the future."

As well as addressing the immediate need to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, the centre, developed with InnovateUK and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, will be at the forefront of the growing UK cell and gene therapy industry.

Scientists and researchers based in the centre will accelerate the time taken for new treatments to be delivered to patients by developing cutting-edge therapies to treat life changing diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The UK is at the forefront of international efforts to research and develop a COVID-19 vaccine and has provided £131 million funding to University of Oxford and Imperial College London to accelerate their work on 2 vaccine candidates.

This follows news on Monday that the government secured early access to 90 million vaccine doses from the BioNTech/Pfizer alliance and Valneva as part of its strategy to build a portfolio of promising new vaccines to protect the UK. In addition, treatments containing COVID-19-neutralising antibodies have been secured from AstraZeneca to protect those who cannot receive vaccines.

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