Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association
COVID-19 has disrupted normal life and business planning across the globe. The UK life sciences industry has stepped up at rapid pace to meet this unprecedented challenge. This response has included vaccine development, new testing methods and exploring digital health solutions to tackle the virus.
The UK has played a central role in international efforts on COVID-19, drawing on our inherent strength as the world’s third largest biotech cluster.
The sharing of data has been key to this response, from the sequencing of the very first COVID-19 genome in China, to sharing best practice in COVID-19 testing strategies.
We have seen Sanofi and GSK join forces, putting aside competition and combining innovative technologies to find solutions.
The collaborations and manufacturing capacity developed to tackle the pandemic will provide solutions now and in the future.
It is not just the larger pharmaceutical companies making a difference, we are also seeing the likes of Exscientia using their AI platform to identify potential drugs and Oxford Nanopore using their technology to help with viral sequencing.
There is a long list of UK companies of all sizes pivoting their research to focus on COVID-19.
Creation of an industry-led vaccine manufacturing taskforce
The global race to create a vaccine to generate immunity in the population is well underway. To get a vaccine up and running and manufactured at scale, it is important to bring together the molecular scientists and large-scale biologics manufacturers.
The BIA has built on its work in response to the Ebola crisis, during which we completed a UK manufacturing capacity audit of our members. We have repeated this exercise to ascertain the capacity to scale-up manufacture of a COVID-19 vaccine.
We formed a vaccine manufacturing taskforce that includes companies and organisations from the public and private sectors, academia, and universities.1
The group is currently supporting the Jenner Institute’s adenovirus vaccine candidate and the work of Imperial College London on a mRNA vaccine.
The manufacturing taskforce will consider any COVID-19 vaccines or therapies that emerge, regardless of whether they are UK or internationally based and look to help where it can.
The group is working closely with the Government and reporting directly to the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance.
I am pleased to see the UK play such an important role in responding to this health emergency. The collaborations and manufacturing capacity developed to tackle the pandemic will provide solutions now and in the future.
1 Structure of the BIA’s vaccine manufacturing taskforce: Chair of the Industry-led Vaccine Manufacturing Group: Ian McCubbin
1: Adenovirus vaccine: Cobra Biologics & Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult
2: mRNA vaccine manufacture and formulation: CPI
3: Antibody: Alchemab and Kymab
4: Fill Finish: Innovate UK
5: Supply Chain: Fujifilm
6: VMIC: VMIC
7: Communications: UCL and BIA
Supported by MHRA, UKRI, GSK and KTN