The Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub: securing the supply of essential vaccines
What will the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax-Hub) achieve?
The Vax-Hub vision is to make the UK the global centre for integrated discovery through to bioprocess manufacture of next-generation vaccines:
- Health: Ensure that fewer people die from vaccine-preventable diseases through the timely, affordable supply of vaccine, for both routine and emergency scenarios
- Skills: Increase academic, industrial and policy training through secondments, continuing professional development (CPD), Qualified Person training and dissemination events
- Economy: Increase value to the economy through cost savings achieved through decisional tools and cheaper vaccines
- Pipeline: Increase the number of products entering and succeeding in the development pipeline with development tools
- Policy: Shape UK and international policy through continued leadership in vaccine research, user group interactions and manufacturer and funder engagement
The Vax-Hub will work with its network of users and academics to deliver the vision, with the core research focusing on:
- Grand Challenge 1: Tools and technologies to de-risk scale-up and rapid response, which will encompass research into new de-risking tools and technologies, platform manufacturing, analytics and formulation for new and existing vaccines.
- Grand Challenge 2: Enhanced operational and economic tools for uninterrupted, low-cost supply, will consider the integration of new technologies and process improvements established in Grand Challenge 1 and their real impact on the cost of goods. This will require new modelling tools to describe the impact on cost and study optimal manufacturing strategies.
- Platform Funding: Platform funding will enable knowledge transfer activities and feasibility studies, both within the UK and internationally. The Grand Challenge research will generate significant amounts of data, protocols and increase process understanding, which will be disseminated via training activities. Platform funding via Feasibility Projects and Expert Interaction Vouchers will be available to enable users to test these novel outputs on their own products and processes, thus adding to the innovation pipeline.
The Vax-Hub will seek to enhance future Vaccine Manufacturing through continued innovation. Manufacturing vaccines today is inefficient due to the use of serial batch operations in large complex facilities that require highly trained operators and extensive quality testing throughout production. The goal is to overcome the traditional inefficiencies that manifest at the interfaces between the current discrete stages of batch manufacturing, fill-finish, and quality control testing when delivering high-quality, efficacious vaccines.
In the future, as tools such as ‘reverse-genetics’ reach maturity, potential antigens will be identified from the pathogen genome, presented in a standardised form, whether live viral/vector, subunit or other, and manufactured in a well characterised and defined platform process. The Vax-Hub will meet the future manufacturing vision through an integrated programme of work to develop new technologies, platform manufacturing, better analytics and thermostable formulation. This type of bold research vision is essential to effect change. This is particularly important for vaccine manufacture, as the area itself is conservative, mainly due to the small margins upon which production operates.
The extraordinary advances in synthetic biology, antigen design and cell/viral engineering have reached a maturity suitable for development and manufacturing research to realise the knock on benefits at commercialisation. These benefits include lower cost of goods and modest facility footprints that challenges the economies of scale model currently used by the industry. Without such investment, the health of the vaccine manufacturing community will stagnate and current assumptions will not be challenged.