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Prime Minister visits site of new vaccine manufacturing centre
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited the site of the rapidly developing Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), currently under construction at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. When completed, VMIC will provide the UK’s first strategic vaccine development and advanced manufacturing capability that will accelerate the growth of the UK vaccine industry and also provide national emergency response for future pandemics.
Boris Johnson met with scientists and engineers responsible for advising on scaling up manufacturing of viable Covid-19 vaccines and establishing a rapid deployment centre – a temporary manufacturing centre known as ‘virtual VMIC’ – ready to increase supply of the Oxford/AZ vaccine, once clinical trials prove successful. He also met with design and construction teams fast tracking the development of the 7,400 sq m facility to bring the high-tech centre online in summer 2021 – a year ahead of schedule.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “Brilliant scientists in Oxfordshire and around the UK are driving global efforts to develop a safe vaccine that works to defeat coronavirus. If one proves successful, we need to be ready to distribute it to the British people as soon as possible.
“That is why construction of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre at Harwell, backed by £158 million from the Government, is fully underway in Oxfordshire. When open, VMIC will be able to manufacture enough vaccine doses for the whole UK population in as little as six months, which would transform how we beat this virus and prepare for future pandemics.”
Dr Matthew Duchars, chief executive officer of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, added: “Today’s visit from the Prime Minister is testament to the incredible work being carried out by an exceptional team at VMIC and amongst our partners. Their work forms a vitally important part of the national response to Covid-19 as well as fast tracking the facility to bring it online in 2021. Once complete, the centre will be equipped to provide future pandemic response for the whole of the UK.
“The Government has demonstrated it is wholeheartedly committed to increasing the country’s vaccines infrastructure in order to strengthen the UK’s ability to not only provide a pandemic response capability, but also to discover and manufacture vaccines for a whole range of conditions. ”
VMIC was established by the University of Oxford, Imperial College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with support from industrial partners, MSD, Johnson and Johnson and Cytiva, formerly known as GE Healthcare. The Centre’s initial funding came from a £65m grant from UK Research and Innovation, as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with a further £93m in 2020 to expand the facility’s capabilities and fast track the build.
Ottoline Leyser, chief executive officer at UK Research and Innovation, concluded: “The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre is an essential new weapon in the UK’s fight against diseases, ensuring sufficient vaccines get to the public in the fastest possible time. But it’s also part of a unique health research and development capability the UK is developing through a publicly-funded network of centres of excellence, catalysts and infrastructure that will allow us to meet today’s health challenges – and those of the future.”