£10.5 million investment to revolutionise future vaccine manufacture
3 November 2023
A new collaborative initiative between UK universities and countries worldwide to share cutting-edge vaccine technology to prevent future global outbreaks of infectious diseases has been awarded £10.5 million from the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The funding will support the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (FVMR Hub), set up originally in 2017 by Imperial College London with University of Bristol as a partner, to continue operations for a further five years, until 2029.
As part of this partnership, world-leading vaccine scientists at Bristol are working with one of Vietnam's major vaccine manufacturers, Vabiotech, to share their expertise in using a powerful recombinant production technology which relies on a synthetic baculovirus used as a production tool. The technology, pioneered at Bristol, is uniquely suited for producing next-generation vaccines in large quantities in insect cells that can be easily cultured at low cost in Vietnam.
To mark the funding announcement, and to kick-off Vaccine Hub operations, University of Bristol researchers welcomed representatives from the Vietnamese Ministry of Health, the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK, the CEO and research team of Vabiotech, and leading vaccine scientists and Hub partners from Imperial College London with a reception in the Wills Memorial Building. The visit included a tour of Bristol’s high-tech facilities, including robotics laboratories, the cryogenic electron microscopy facility, and the new biosafety level 3 virology laboratories, all of which were established during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor Imre Berger, Director of the Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology at the University of Bristol and the Bristol FVMR Hub lead, said: "Our partner Vabiotech is particularly interested in using the technology we developed in Bristol to produce vaccines to combat rabies and avian flu, both major challenges in Vietnam. We saw just a few years ago how quickly avian flu, which began in Vietnam, developed into a global threat for humans around the world. Together with Vabiotech, we will put cutting-edge technology in place to afford cost-effective protection.
Professor Agnes Nairn, Pro Vice Chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Bristol said: "As a university, we are committed to building research partnerships that help make a positive health impact on populations around the world, of which this initiative is set to do. We are delighted by this new funding for the Vaccine Hub which will see our efforts continue in fighting infectious diseases that have the potential to affect us all.”
Professor Robin Shattock, Chair in Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College London and Lead Investigator of the Hub said: "Through the establishment of the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub we are looking to exploit the next wave of biotechnology innovation to rapidly respond to emerging outbreaks and empower countries most at risk to infections to meet their local vaccine needs.”
Dr Dat, CEO and Senior Advisor at Vabiotech, said: "Never has it been more important to work together to help prevent and fight the spread of infectious diseases. The new cost-effective vaccine technology, pioneered at Bristol and shared with Vabiotech, is one example which will help many in our country and, ultimately, also others, who will access these vaccines."
The hubs were announced by Minister for Health and Secondary Care Will Quince. He 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."
The meeting was also attended by University of Bristol's Professor Jeremy Tavare, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean, Health and Life Sciences; Professor Liang-Fong Wong, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation; Professor Michele Barbour, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise and Innovation; Professor Elek Molnar, International Director of the Faculty of Life Sciences; Professor Nigel Savery, Head of the School of Biochemistry; and Dr Kathleen Sedgley, Mr Wayne Powell and Ms Justyna Gol from the Bristol Biodesign Institute.
The initiative is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care as part of the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN), a UK Aid programme to develop vaccines for diseases with epidemic potential in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
About the UK Vaccine Network
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is the UK Government department which is responsible for helping people to live more independent, healthier lives for longer. This investment is part of the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN). UKVN was established to provide funding to support the development of promising vaccines and vaccine technologies that will help combat infectious diseases that have epidemic potential in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). UKVN is a £120m UK Aid investment, which means all projects funded must support research primarily and directly for the benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
About Professor Imre Berger
Professor Imre Berger is Director of the Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology, a partnership between the University of Bristol and the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (MPG) in Germany. It aims to advance the future of health and medicine by understanding the fundamental nature of life. Professor Berger is also Co-Director of the Bristol BioDesign Institute and partner in the European Commission ADDovenom consortium project developing new snakebite treatments exploiting the same manufacturing technology used to produce novel vaccines in the FMHR Hub.
About the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (FVMR Hub)
The FVMR Hub is a £10.5 million award from the Department of Health and Social Care and administered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. A major goal of the FVMR Hub is to research and develop new cost-effective vaccines that impact populations in lower- or middle-income countries, aligning with the UK’s commitment towards providing Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub is led by Imperial College London. Initial novel manufacturing projects will be carried out in Vietnam, Bangladesh, South Africa, and the UK, expanding to other countries during the project.
VABIOTECH is one of the leading companies in Vietnam in manufacturing, trading, researching and developing a wide range of vaccines and biologicals for human use, analysing samples of new developed vaccines and biological products, diagnostic kits, therapeutic products, pharmaceuticals; cosmetics, nutrition foods, providing healthcare service.
Being the biggest vaccine manufacturer and supplier for the National Expanded Program on Immunization in Vietnam with GMP qualified facilities, VABIOTECH is proud of its contribution to prevent, eliminate and gradually eradicate dangerous infectious diseases in order to improve children’s health in Vietnam.
Currently, VABIOTECH produces four vaccines: Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Japanese Encephalitis, Oral cholera and a series of diagnosis kits for detection of HBsAg, anti-HBs, anti-HCV and anti-HIV. Besides, VABIOTECH also imports and provides some other vaccines and biological products to meet the market’s demand such as: Mumps, Rubella, Meningococcal and Varicella.
VABIOTECH is highly committed to provide its best products at favourable prices in order to protect Vietnamese people’s health and well-being.
FVMR Hub collaborators and guests from Vietnam
Vietnamese collaborators and guests at the meeting also included Mr. Dang Xuan Cong and Mr. Le Thanh Binh both Senior Officers of Science and Training at the Ministry of Health, Vietnam, Mr Nguyen Trung Kien, the First Secretary and Head of Science and Technology Office of the Vietnam Embassy in the UK, and Vabiotech’s Dr Nguyen Anh Tuan, General Director and COO, Dr Phan Hong Hoa, Deputy Director, Mrs. Lê Thi Thanh Hà, Chief of Accounting and Financial Department, Mrs. Lê Thu Hang, Chief of the Material Purchasing Department, and Mrs. Vu Hong Nga, Chief of the R&D Department.
FVMR Hub collaborators at Imperial College London
Imperial College collaborators on the project present at the meeting also included Professor Nilay Shah from the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Rongjun Chen from the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Dr Sarah Joseph, FVMR Hub manager.
About the Max Planck Bristol Centre
The Max Planck Bristol Centre (MPBC) is a joint research centre of the Max Planck Society and the University of Bristol. The MPBC is focused on the field of synthetic and minimal biology. Located in Bristol and with nodes at Max Planck Institutes in Martinsried, Mainz and Heidelberg, scientists in the MPBC aim to construct synthetic vaccines, artificial cells, cytoskeletons and nanoscale molecular machines to investigate the building blocks necessary for life and their applications. The core manufacturing technology for producing novel vaccines in the FVMR Hub was developed in the Max Planck Bristol Centre.
About the Bristol BioDesign Institute
The Bristol BioDesign Institute (BBI) co-ordinates synthetic biology research, training and innovation across the University of Bristol. With wide-ranging applications from health to food security, BBI exploits pioneering approaches to deliver the rational design and engineering of biological systems for useful purposes, through multidisciplinary research which brings together postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, academics, policy makers and industry, whilst also engaging the public with emerging solutions to global challenges.