UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


UCL Biochemical Engineering academics contribute to Select Committee Coronavirus inquiry

27 October 2021

Prof. Martina Micheletti, Prof. Dan Bracewell, Prof. Paul Dalby and Dr Stephen Morris contributed to 'Coronavirus: lessons learned to date' that was cited in the Committee’s sixth report and called to provide oral evidence, showcasing the impact of cross-disciplinarity.

Biochemical Engineer in lab with flasks of liquid

“We were happy to work with Dr Penny Carmichael (UCL STEaPP) and Audrey Tan (UCL Public Policy team in the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research)) in providing input on the importance of vaccine manufacture to the wide-ranging UCL response to the Science and Technology Committee (House of Commons) and Health and Social Care Committee (Commons) inquiry into 'Coronavirus: lessons learnt’. To provide evidence that the development of technology and manufacturing processes for vaccines relies on consistent long-term funding and training for talented staff. The maintenance of this will be essential to our readiness to respond to future health challenges.”
Dr Stephen Morris, UCL Biochemical Engineering, October 2021

Read the full story on UCL News here

Quotes from the written submission:

“The development of technology and manufacturing of vaccines relies on consistent, long-term funding, as well as training for talented staff.”

Executive summary, A6.

“The UK does not have enough formulation manufacturing sites (where the components of a vaccine are combined).
Example: Vax-Hub is co-led by Professor Martina Micheletti (UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering) and Professor Sarah Gilbert (Jenner Institute, University of Oxford) and aims to meet the future manufacturing vision through an integrated programme of work to develop new technologies, platform manufacturing, better analytics and thermostable formulation. Currently, experts involved with Vax-Hub, including Professor Paul Dalby (Dept. of Biochemical Engineering), are working to accelerate the development and scale up of manufacturing processes and stable formulations for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Recommendation: Greater investment needs to be placed in funding collaborations and funding in order to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine at speed when it is available.”

Lessons Learned I4

“The ability to develop a COVID-19 vaccine at speed has only been possible due to the years of investment that has been put into the technologies being employed.
Example: The team developing the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine had already used ChAdOx1 vaccine technology to produce candidate vaccines against a number of pathogens including flu, Zika and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).[61] They had already begun work on pandemic preparedness with the technology behind ChAdOx, in preparation for 'Disease X'. When the disease emerged in China, they moved quickly and as soon as the genetic sequence was available, they began work on a trial.
Dr Stephen Morris and Professor Daniel Bracewell (Dept of Biochemical Engineering) highlight that the success of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trials should not be interpreted as a demonstration that vaccines can easily be developed and manufactured in one year in the event of a pandemic. Rather, it shows the importance of preparation in the form of consistent, long-term funding for the development of basic technologies and manufacturing processes, as well as training for talented staff.
Recommendation: Long-term strategic investment in the UK’s infrastructure and talent base is needed to not only develop efficacious vaccines for this current pandemic, but to also prepare for future disease outbreaks.”

Lessons learned I5