The hubs were announced at a meeting between the UK and the Association of South East Asian Nations and will be part of the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) Project. They will share £33 million ($40.9 million) in aid funding from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and an additional £1.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Vaccines save millions of lives every year by protecting against diseases including diphtheria, influenza and measles. The Covid-19 pandemic also showcased how vaccines have the power to protect from destructive pandemics.
However, not everyone has access to lifesaving vaccines. According to the World Health Organization, vaccination progress has slowed in some countries and many people, including nearly 20 million infants per year, have insufficient access to vaccines. This is often due to a lack of infrastructure for manufacturing and storing vaccines for use.
To address these issues, each hub will specialize in different aspects of supplying vaccines to the developing world. The first, dubbed the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub, will focus on the cost-effective manufacture and deployment of vaccines in countries including Vietnam, Bangladesh and South Africa. The second, named the Chanjo Hub, will head efforts to establish local manufacturing for vaccines against endemic diseases in African nations focusing on Kenya and Ghana.
Development of effective and cheap vaccines
Meanwhile the third hub will research vaccine platform technology to accelerate the development of effective and cheap vaccines for use in LMICs and the fourth hub will focus on developing a vaccine manufacturing ecosystem in southeast Asian countries with a focus on the diseases dengue and hand, foot and mouth disease.
“The need for local capacity to rapidly respond to known and unknown threats and to mitigate impacts to the global community is urgent. We are really excited about this African-led programme,” said Faith Osier, professor and chair in malaria immunology & vaccinology, who runs the Chanjo Hub, in a public statement. “It leverages African scientists in the diaspora and on the continent, international collaborators, industry partners, business entrepreneurs, philanthropists, regulators, and policymakers.”
In addition to academic collaborators, the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub will work with partners including the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and private companies such as Cytiva, Sartorius BIA Separations, and FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies.