New partnership to drive viral vector vaccine manufacturing including COVID-19 vaccine

Image of a woman and man shaking hands in front of a contract to show New partnership to drive viral vector vaccine manufacturing including COVID-19

The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) has signed its first industry partnership agreement with Oxford Biomedica plc. The organisations will collaborate to enable scaled-up viral vector vaccines manufacturing, with an immediate focus on a vaccine for COVID-19 – the first of which is the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca adenovirus vector vaccine candidate AZD1222 (previously known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19).

This partnership marks the first step for VMIC in delivering the ‘Virtual VMIC’ programme,  a rapid deployment facility ready to make vaccines at pace and scale once a viable COVID-19 vaccine has been found, and whilst the permanent facility is being built at Harwell Campus. Due to open in mid-2021 the permanent VMIC facility will have the capability to produce up to 70 million pandemic vaccine doses in four to six months.

VMIC is a not-for-profit organisation established to provide the UK’s first strategic vaccine development and advanced manufacturing capability.

As part of today’s agreement, VMIC will procure specialist manufacturing equipment to rapidly equip two new Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) manufacturing suites. The equipment will be housed within Oxford Biomedica’s new commercial manufacturing centre, Oxbox, located in Oxford. Vaccine manufactured here will form part of the national effort to meet demand for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Oxford Biomedica will provide training and technical assistance to VMIC staff as part of a programme of activity to accelerate the operational readiness and GMP manufacturing capabilities for viral vector vaccine candidates at VMIC’s new manufacturing facility.

The Agreement provides a framework for a longer-term partnership between Oxford Biomedica and VMIC to explore other novel viral vector vaccine candidates.

Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive Officer of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, said: “This collaboration with Oxford Biomedica means that we can increase the UK’s capacity to manufacture viral vector vaccines in 2020 as part of a national effort in response to COVID-19.

“This marks a major milestone for VMIC in setting up collaborative partnerships with industry. It is the first agreement outside of our founding partners under VMIC’s longer term objective to work with, and enhance, the vaccine industry in the UK and abroad.”

John Dawson, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford Biomedica, said: “Since we became involved in addressing the urgent need for UK manufacturing capacity for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222, we have strived to support VMIC’s broader goal of accelerating and supporting UK manufacturing capacity and capabilities for vaccines more generally. This highly collaborative partnership allows for a rapid deployment capability to be established, and also accelerates fit out and utilisation of another two GMP manufacturing suites within our new commercial manufacturing facility, Oxbox”.

Kate Bingham Chair of the Vaccine Taskforce said: “The Government is backing the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre as a crucial part of securing long-term vaccine manufacturing capability in the UK.

“Viral vector COVID-19 vaccine candidates are showing significant promise. This new partnership between VMIC and Oxford Biomedica marks a major milestone in increasing the UK manufacturing capacity of viral vector vaccines and will specifically help ensure that we have the right skills in place to manufacture a vaccine as soon as one is available.”

Both VMIC and Oxford Biomedica are original members of the University of Oxford, Jenner Institute manufacturing consortium focused on scaling-up the GMP manufacture of AZD1222, which has entered clinical trials at multiple sites in the UK. VMIC have also been working as part of the national vaccines industry taskforce where they advise on how manufacturing any COVID-19 vaccine candidates can be scaled-up.