UK Health Security Agency opens advanced Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre
Centre to lead UK’s ability to develop vaccines against pathogens with pandemic potential
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has opened its Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC), which builds on its pandemic legacy and will help develop new vaccines for the UK and worldwide.
The centre is situated at the UKHSA’s Porton Down site, where it is co-located with other services delivered separately by partners including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
The creation of the centre, in over 2,800 sq.m of laboratory space at Porton Down, is a major part of UKHSA’s three-year strategy < https://bit.ly/3P8F4GL > and incorporates more than 200 leading scientists working on around 100 projects, including tackling pathogens with pandemic potential.
Its work involves supporting the development of new vaccines by testing and evaluating them against threats capable of causing a health emergency. The centre’s work is conducted throughout the vaccine lifecycle, from early in the vaccine product design through to evaluating vaccine effectiveness, which continues when new variants arise.
In particular, the centre will target pathogens for which a vaccine does not exist or is not regulated in the UK, or could be improved, such as avian influenza, mpox (monkeypox) or hantavirus, a severe infection that can pass from rodents to humans.
In one example of its work, VDEC’s teams are already running phase one clinical trials for what could be a world-first vaccine against Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, a virus that is spread by the bite of an infected tick and is fatal in about 30% of cases.
They are also targeting common infections like tuberculosis (TB) and Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection that can cause significant problems in healthcare settings.
Building on capabilities developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to test emerging vaccines against new variants, VDEC has been created to take that work forward and expand its remit to a wide range of other pathogens and diseases.
The centre has a unique set of capabilities specialising in high consequence infectious diseases and working to the highest standards of safety, quality and security, making its research and outputs trusted worldwide.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said: “VDEC is a hugely exciting step-change for the UK’s vaccine research and development capabilities and a vital component of UKHSA’s critical work highlighted in our three-year strategy, including preparing the UK against many of the biggest infectious disease threats. “VDEC is a unique facility in the UK, delivering multiple critical early pre and post clinical research and evaluation studies in a single research facility. This essential work will lead the way over the coming years in our fight against potentially deadly pathogens.”
VDEC’s work also plays a crucial role in the UK’s contribution to the global 100 Days Mission, launched in 2021 under the UK G7 presidency with the ambitious aim of deploying an effective vaccine within 100 days of identifying a new pandemic threat.