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£10 million hub to tackle global vaccination challenges

3 January 2018

The University of Bristol will contribute to a new research hub to increase global immunisation coverage and improve response to viral outbreaks through the rapid and cost-effective deployment of vaccines.

Established with almost £10 million of funding by the Department for Health, the new Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub is led by Imperial College London and features four other UK universities and three UK institutes.

Managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Hub will address two major challenges:

  • How to design a production system that can produce tens of thousands of new doses within weeks of a new threat being identified
  • How to improve current manufacturing processes and change the way vaccines are manufactured, stabilised and stored so that existing and new diseases can be prevented effectively, and costs reduced

The hub will collaborate with the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturing Network on manufacturing projects in India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Uganda and China.

Currently, nearly one in five infants across the world - 19.5 million children - do not have access to basic vaccines, and almost one third of deaths among children under five could be prevented through the use of vaccines.

The effective distribution of vaccines is hampered in rural areas of low and middle-income nations by the costs associated with their production and purification, and the need for them to be stored at temperatures of between two and eight degrees Celsius.

An additional challenge is the need to respond rapidly to emerging threats such as the Ebola and Zika viruses.

The new Hub will adopt an integrated approach that will build on new developments in life sciences, immunology and process systems to address these two challenges.

Approaches that will be explored by researchers at the Hub include the development of synthetic RNA vaccines which can be rapidly manufactured; the rapid production of yeast and bacterially-expressed particles that mimic components of pathogenic viruses and bacteria; and protein stabilisation to preserve vaccines at temperatures of up to 100 degrees Celsius, avoiding the need for refrigerated distribution and storage.

Bristol lead, Professor Imre Berger, Director of the Bristol Synthetic Biology Centre BrisSynBio, is delighted about the Hub and Bristol’s role in innovating vaccination.

“Synthetic biology is emerging as a game-changer in many fields, notably in life sciences and the health sector. BrisSynBio will bring to bear its array of highly sophisticated tools to address urgent, unmet needs in the field of vaccine research.”

EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “Vaccines and their availability can mean the difference between life and death for millions of people across the globe. Many of these deaths, whether they are a result of polio, diphtheria or measles, could be prevented through immunisation, and research at the Hub will look to overcome barriers currently blocking progress in this field.

“At the same time, this investment will also support the researchers as they strive to develop ways to respond rapidly and efficiently to threats such as Ebola and Zika and save many lives in the future.”

Further information

Department of Health funding of £9,947,570 over 40 months has been allocated to the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub.

The Hub is led by Imperial College London, and also involves the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Nottingham, Cranfield University, the Clinical Biotechnology Centre (CBC) as part of NHS Blood and Transplant, UK National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, CPI and National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC). The Hub will also partner with GSK Vaccines Institute for Global Health. The hub will collaborate with the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturing Network (DCVMN) and African Vaccine Manufacturers Initiative (AVMI) to maximise dissemination of knowledge. Manufacturing research projects will be carried out with the following partners: Hilleman Laboratories, India; the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI); Dalian Hissen BioPharm Co., Ltd, China; Incepta, Bangladesh; and VABIOTECH, Vietnam.

For further information on global immunisation figures visit:

BrisSynBio: BrisSynBio is a multi-disciplinary research centre that focuses on the biomolecular design and engineering aspects of synthetic biology, and has been established as one of six Synthetic Biology Research Centres in the UK.  BrisSynBio is fundedpredominantly by the BBSRC and EPSRC, and we have a number of other academic, industrial and public-facing partners.‌

BrisSynBio is part of the Bristol BioDesign Institute, one of the University of Bristol's seven Specialist Research Institutes

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC): As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate. By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

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