UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Alumni from UK Vaccines Task Force return to review year 3 design projects

3 January 2024

This year our third-year degree students’ design project was on “Disease X”, an unknown pathogen that will be responsible for the next global pandemic. We were very pleased to welcome back alumni who were joined by our Year In Industry students to assess the projects.

Team of alumni and students in corridor at year 3 UG poster presentation

The brief was developed by Dr Andrea Rayat and Dr Vaughan Thomas in conjunction with representatives from the UK Vaccines Taskforce and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, who are actively funding initiatives to prevent future disease outbreaks using vaccines and biological therapeutics. 

External judges came from Industry (including suppliers (Cytiva), manufacturers (MeiraGTx, Virocell, Astra Zeneca) and design consultancies (Worley), plus philanthropic organisations (Wellcome and CEPI), who were very impressed with the posters and the thinking behind what it takes to design a biologics facility that could rapidly respond to a future pandemic. 

Four of the judges served on the UK Vaccines Taskforce as technical program leads (Jasmin Kee (Technical Director); Claire Millar, Ranna Eardley-Patel, Vaughan Thomas), responsible for the UK’s investments into Covid-19 vaccines and onshoring of biomanufacturing. Many more judges and UCL BE alumni were directly involved in the development and global rollout of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine (Vaxzevria) and monoclonal antibodies (tixagevimab and cilgavimab). 

“UCL Biochemical Engineering has an unparalleled network of technical experts who have been called upon to respond to recent “Disease X” outbreaks such as swine ‘flu, SARS MERS, Ebola and Covid-19. Our multidisciplinary training gives us a unique insight into the process, product, facility design, and supply chain aspects needed to respond to emerging disease threats” said alumna Ranna Eardley-Patel, EngD, former Technical Specialist, UK Vaccines Taskforce. 

The research done as part of VaxHub and the FTMH Hub has been leveraged by the UK government in its life sciences investment strategy planning.