The British government has pledged £20 million to support the development of new vaccines to combat the world’s deadliest diseases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the new funding on Monday, saying that it would ramp up Britain’s efforts to fund ground-breaking research into vaccines, diagnostics, and cures to fight the threat of future viruses.
It comes as coronavirus continues to spread around the world, with scientists working against the clock to develop a vaccine against it.
“Vaccines are our best defence against a host of deadly diseases, including coronavirus,” said Hancock, on a visit to the government’s Porton Down research facility in Wiltshire. “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,” he added. “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.”
The funding will go to support the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — a global partnership of public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations launched in Davos in 2017 to develop new vaccines to stop future epidemics.
It was originally created following the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa, from 2013 to 2016, which is estimated to have led to the deaths of more than 11,000 people.
A vaccine for coronavirus is currently in development. The scientists working on it are having to develop it within 16 weeks, ahead of clinical trials that would last four months.
It’s a development so rapid that it’s “unprecedented” in vaccine history, according to Dr. Richard Hatchett, chief executive of CEPI.
Hatchett said that the British funding has come 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,” he said. “This is an extremely ambitious timeline — indeed, it would be unprecedented in the field of 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.”
The current outbreak is being called "novel coronavirus" because it's a new strain of coronavirus that hadn't previously been detected in humans, according to the World Health Organisation.
The funding announcement comes a week after the government pledged £58.7 million in funding for another research project — which works to protect the UK from threats like antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases.
This year is going to be a really important year for vaccines, particularly in the UK. That’s because Britain is going to be hosting a major international conference on vaccines — all to raise funds for life-saving vaccines for some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
Political leaders, charities, public and private donors, vaccine manufacturers, and governments will all assemble in London in June in support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
It’s a replenishment moment — essentially meaning a top-up of funding — for Gavi, a global vaccination partnership that’s immunised 700 million children globally since its creation in 2000, saving 10 million lives.
Ahead of the Gavi replenishment, we’re going to be continuing our work campaigning for vaccines as an absolutely essential tool in the fight to deliver Global Goal 3, which works to achieve good health and wellbeing for everyone. You can join the movement to achieve the UN’s Global Goals and end extreme poverty by 2030 by becoming a Global Citizen and taking action with us here.