UK government pledges £20 million to help develop coronavirus vaccine

Author: Ingrid Torjesen

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The government has pledged £20 million for vaccine development research to help find a vaccine against coronavirus and other deadly diseases.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced that the UK will ramp up efforts to fund ground-breaking research into vaccines, diagnostics and cures to fight against the threat of future viruses during a visit to Public Health England’s Porton Down laboratory last week.

The £20 million will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – an innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations launched in Davos in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. CEPI was originally formed in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Vaccines are our best defence against a host of deadly diseases, including coronavirus. The UK is a hub of world-leading and pioneering research, and it is vital that we lead the way in developing new vaccines to target global threats with scientists from across the world.

“The £20 million announced today will help our globally recognised vaccine development capabilities continue to develop new defences against emerging diseases including coronavirus. It’s paramount we invest in vital research about infectious diseases, keeping the UK at the forefront of modern-day science so we can share this knowledge globally.”

Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said: “CEPI welcomes the UK’s continued support and funding for our vital work, which comes at a crucial moment as the world races to respond to the emergence of a novel coronavirus. The rapid global spread and unique epidemiological characteristics of the virus are deeply concerning.

“Our hope is that, with our partners, we can get an investigational vaccine from gene sequencing of the pathogen through to clinical testing in 16 weeks. The earliest stage of clinical trials (Phase I), to establish the safety of investigational vaccines, would take around two to four months.”

He added: “This is an extremely ambitious timeline – indeed, it would be unprecedented in the of field vaccine development. It is important to remember that even if we are successful - and there can be no guarantee - there will be further challenges to navigate before we can make vaccines more broadly available.”

Public Health England already has new programmes to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, and the UK government is also in initial stages of talks between the National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation regarding plans to run a rapid research call to support the global response to 2019-nCoV.

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