Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre: Q&A

Peter Russell

February 03, 2021

Future-proofing the UK's vaccine procurement efforts has attracted significant investment from the UK Government alongside financial commitments from the pharmaceutical industry and science know-how from academia.

French biotech company Valneva has been assisted by taxpayers' money to concentrate manufacture of its promising COVID-19 candidate vaccine at a plant in Livingston, West Lothian.

Soon to come on stream, also helped by central funds, is a huge centre in Oxfordshire: the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC).

What is the VMIC?

The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) has been established to promote, develop, and accelerate the growth of the UK vaccine industry.

It will be the first dedicated vaccines manufacturing and innovation centre in the UK.

VMIC will fast track development and manufacturing of early stage vaccine products, both prophylactic and therapeutic, as part of the national scientific infrastructure.

Has it a role to play in the COVID-19 pandemic?

The VMIC will also serve as the UK's emergency response capability to produce vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

When complete, the facility should have the capacity to produce enough vaccine doses to serve the entire UK population in as little as 6 months.

In January, Dr Matthew Duchars, chief executive of VMIC, told The Daily Telegraph: "We’ll be able to make 70 million doses within a 4 to 5 month period, enough for everyone in the country."

He added: "New COVID variants are absolutely part of the thinking. We probably will need to make seasonal vaccine variants because there may well be mutations in the virus, as well as vaccines for other diseases. You never know what’s coming next."

Scientists and engineers at VMIC have been involved in the development of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. They advised the pharmaceutical giant on the scaleup of the AZD1222 vaccine.
 

Where is it based?

VMIC will be located within Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in the Oxford Science Park, Oxfordshire. 

Construction of the VMIC in progress/Credit: VMIC
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a science and technology campus spread across more than 710 acres, occupied by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and more than 225 organisations.

Who is behind it?

The VMIC facility was announced in 2018, backed by the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute, Imperial College London, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

It is also supported by leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies such as Merck Sharp and Dohme, Johnson and Johnson, and GE Healthcare.
 

When will it open?

The VMIC was originally scheduled to open in 2022.

However, in May last year the Government said it would provide funding to accelerate construction so that the facility would open in the summer of 2021.
 

How much is it costing?

Total public and private funding would be £207 million, the Government said last year.

That includes extra funding announced by the Government in May 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What about the facilities?

The VMIC facility will have four clean rooms each capable of good manufacturing practice.

The clean rooms will be suitable for production of non-replicating viral vectors and live attenuated viral vaccines.

Initial capacity will be for 10 litre and 50-200 litre scales but with the capability of 1000 litres.
 

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