In a bid to “future-proof the country,” Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that vaccines tailored to tackle COVID-19 variants will be accelerated through new state-of-the-art labs.
The government will invest £29.3 million through the Vaccines Taskforce in Public Health England’s new testing facilities at Porton Down, to assess the effectiveness of existing and new vaccines against variants of concern.
The funding will increase the site’s current capacity from 700 to 3,000 blood samples tested a week in order to fast-track variant vaccines. These tests measure the levels of antibodies to COVID-19 that are generated by the vaccines.
The investment will enable Porton Down’s expert scientists to accelerate the pace and scale of specialised testing to support the rapid development of vaccines designed to combat specific mutations of COVID-19.
The government is working with existing and new suppliers to design vaccines targeted at variants of concern and the Porton Down facility will support this process.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK has proven itself to be a world-class force in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax and Valneva vaccines all researched, developed or manufactured on British soil.
“We’ve backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic and this multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants.
“We are committed to supporting the UK’s flourishing life-sciences industry and this announcement is yet another critical way we will build back better to protect the country over the coming months and years.”
Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our vaccination programme has so far saved thousands of lives, but it’s vital we put in place robust support for the programme for the future.
“This funding will allow us to increase the testing capacity at Porton Down with a new innovative facility and ensure our COVID-19 vaccines are effective against any future variants of concern.
The UK remains at the forefront of vaccine research and development, and today’s announcement will further cement us as a global frontrunner in our future response to COVID-19.”