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New vaccine research centre opened to prepare for future pandemics

Betsy Goodfellow | August 7, 2023 | News story | Research and Development Immunology, UKHSA, pandemic, vaccine research centre 

Ministers have opened a new vaccine research centre at the UK Health and Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Porton Down campus in Wiltshire, intended to prepare for “disease X”, the next possible pandemic pathogen.

The state-of-the-art Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre will house live viruses in specialist containment facilities allowing scientists to access pathogens that do not have vaccines or those that have vaccine programmes that could be improved, such as the flu or monkeypox.

The decision to open this centre followed an announcement from the COVID-19 inquiry that previous governments were ill prepared for the pandemic, and focused too much on flu outbreaks than other viruses.

Professor Dame Jenny Harries commented: “What we’re trying to do now is capture that really excellent work from COVID-19 and make sure we’re using that as we go forward for any new pandemic threats. […] What we try to do here is keep an eye on the ones that we do know. For example, with COVID-19, we are still here testing all the new variants with the vaccines that have been provided to check they are still effective. But we are also looking at how quickly we can develop a new test that would be used if a brand-new virus popped up somewhere.”

Professor Isabel Oliver, UKHSA’s chief scientific officer, added: “We know that through scientific advancement, we could detect and control these spreads before they have the impact that COVID-19 had on our lives. It’s not easy, but we know that if we strengthen surveillance and if we accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics, we could do so much better. We need to be prepared for all threats, including those that have not been detected yet.”

Betsy Goodfellow

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