Plans to sell off UK vaccine development centre criticised by scientists

Ministers have been urged to retain a facility that can swiftly create and test new vaccines, amid concerns over the sale of a leading centre originally designed to prepare Britain for future pandemics.

Some senior medical figures have privately raised concerns that government officials are examining bids for the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), near Oxford, which has benefited from millions in public funding during its development.

John Bell, who has held a series of influential roles in the government’s Covid-19 response, said that the centre’s vaccine manufacturing capabilities might be best placed in the hands of a large pharmaceutical company. 하나, he added that a facility looking at vaccine innovation and trialling – the original vision for VMIC – should be maintained.

“Here’s the worry,”그는 말했다. “Let’s say we get a big [pharmaceutical company] come in and start making routine vaccines of one sort or another. That’s all fine. But the whole point of this was to further enable innovation, so that we would actually have the novel vaccines when you needed them. 그만큼 AstraZeneca vaccine came out of that kind of thinking.

“The real risk is we’re going to lose the ability to do that early phase stuff that actually told us that you could use the adenovirus to make really good vaccines. There’s a whole host of new vaccine platforms at very early stages of development that will need to be evaluated in what was the original vision for the VMIC. If you lose that, you really do lose a crucial bit of the puzzle. You can imagine, there’s a risk that that’ll get fudged. I think that would be a real problem.”

Bell’s intervention echoes that of Clive Dix, the former head of the government’s vaccine taskforce, WHO said in an 관찰자 interview in November that he had seen no evidence that his plans for preparing the country for future Covid variants were being heeded. He also said that he believed the UK was no longer “on the front foot” in tackling the pandemic.

Kate Bingham, the original chair of the vaccine taskforce, has also claimed “the waters have closed over” the innovative approach taken when the pandemic arrived.

Several companies are said to have submitted bids for the VMIC. Its establishment was announced by the government in 2018 to develop vaccines in the UK and deal with future pandemics. Insiders said that plans were changed as Covid struck and its manufacturing capabilities became the priority. It had been scheduled to open in 2023, but its opening was brought forward to next year.

Some insiders said that placing VMIC in the hands of a large pharmaceuticals manufacturer was the best use for the facility. 하나, Bell said more time should be given to considering how an innovation centre for vaccines could be retained. “That would be a really interesting idea and I’m not sure whether they’ve thought about that very hard,”그는 말했다.

“It’s not beyond the wit of man for the government to sell on the scale-up facility, and then go back and say: we are going to carry on with the original small-scale innovation idea. We’re just going to set it up again, as it was intended in the first place, 그리고 가져 18 months to build it. I think that would be the best solution, frankly.”

The government said: “We are working closely with VMIC, which is a private company, and others to ensure the UK retains our strong domestic vaccine manufacturing capability to contribute to the UK’s resilience against Covid-19 and other future health emergencies. The government has invested over £380m to secure and scale up the UK’s manufacturing capabilities to be able to respond to the impact of Covid-19, as well as any future pandemics.”

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