CPI has received a £5 million investment to support the development of an mRNA ‘vaccine library’ as part of the Government’s vaccine support package announced in the Budget by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
The vaccine library will form the basis of a rapid response facility, which will enable mRNA vaccines to be developed to help protect against new variants of COVID-19 as and when they emerge. As COVID-19 is such a new virus and vaccines have been developed at-speed over the past year, it is unclear how effective they may be against new variants. Research is ongoing into their effectiveness, and although experts believe the current vaccines will combat the recently identified Kent, Brazil and South African strains of the disease, new variants will likely continue to emerge in the future that are resistant, which means new vaccines will be needed.
When new variants of COVID-19 are identified, their DNA can be used to develop mRNA vaccines in a matter of days. The vaccines will be banked in a ‘vaccine library’, ready for future manufacture and scale-up when needed.
CPI, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, has been working with the UK Vaccine Taskforce (VTF) since March 2020, applying its world-leading expertise in the development of mRNA vaccines to support the fight against coronavirus. CPI is currently the only company based in the UK capable of batch developing mRNA vaccines ready for use in clinical trials and manufacture.
CEO Frank Millar said: “We’re delighted to be a key part of the UK’s ongoing fight against coronavirus, which has had such a devastating impact over the past year. It’s essential that we prepare for a future living with the threat of COVID-19 and the library of vaccine candidates we are building here in Darlington will help future-proof against further outbreaks caused by new strains of the disease. It will mean that as soon as a new strain of COVID-19 is identified, the relevant vaccine can be selected and rapidly manufactured for use in clinical trials, in a very similar way that we see flu vaccines developed each year.”
The North East of England has proven to be a powerhouse in the UK life sciences sector following a decade of investment through the UK industrial strategy, which set out to build skills and infrastructure to support high-value industries. One-third of the UK’s GDP in pharmaceutical manufacturing comes from the North East and the Fujifilm facility in Billingham is manufacturing the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.
This latest investment demonstrates the global importance of the world-leading science and innovation developed here in the UK.