Global vaccine networks tackling infections around the world

The global vaccine networks will continue their vital work for a further two years with funding granted by UKRI, from the International Science Partnerships Fund.

The global vaccine networks are supporting research to change the way we tackle infections around the world, for example:

  • developing new vaccines specifically to protect pregnant mothers and their babies
  • enabling the freeze-drying of veterinary vaccines to expand their distribution and use

Sharing knowledge and experience

Five vaccine networks were established in 2017 to help UK and international researchers share knowledge and experience.

The aim was to accelerate the development of new or improved vaccines through pump-priming projects, training fellowships and events for network members.

The networks have grown substantially since their establishment, in close partnership with low and middle-income country (LMIC) researchers and supporting exciting new science and collaborations.

Their crucial work will now be supported for a further two years with £6.3 million of funding granted by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), from the government’s International Science Partnerships Fund.

Vital network collaborations

The vital collaborations initiated by the networks are already addressing significant illnesses and causes of death in humans and animals with high economic and social effects, particularly in LMICs.

The development of vaccines to tackle infectious diseases reduces the need for antibiotics and therefore also helps tackle the challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

This is one of the top global health threats according to the World Health Organization.

Project examples

All networks have supported successful projects in different diseases.

The following are two examples.

Protecting newborn babies from infection

One of the networks is IMPRINT (IMmunising PRegnant Women and INfants neTwork).

IMPRINT focuses on immunising pregnant women to boost the level of antibodies transferred to their babies so they will be better protected from infection as newborns.

One of the pump-priming projects supported by IMPRINT aimed to understand in great detail how the placenta transfers antibodies to the developing baby and what kind of antibodies are best transported.

The team leading the project developed a laboratory system, which will allow more accurate studies of antibody transport during pregnancy by mimicking the placental barriers.

This knowledge will ultimately help to design better vaccines to protect babies from infectious diseases.

Freeze-drying vaccines

A second network is the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network (IVVN).

IVVN supported a project on the development and optimisation of a low-cost method of formulating vaccines to remove the need for refrigeration during their transportation and storage.

This will facilitate the use and distribution of vaccines in LMIC settings and reduce the cost of administering them.

Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a disease that affects animals but can also infect humans.

The vaccine stabilisation project for RVF was successful in demonstrating two suitable options for RVF vaccine distribution outside of the cold chain.

The results from the project suggest this will also be possible for other vaccines, including for humans.

Saving lives across the world

Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith said:

Our joint support for the Global Vaccines Networks is backing breakthroughs in development that will save lives across the world – from boosting immunity in newborns to ensuring the costs of moving and storing vaccines are not a barrier to lower income countries.

The UK Government’s latest investment builds on nearly £15m of support for researchers sharing cutting-edge knowledge and experience with our international partners for future vaccine development, while positioning the UK at the heart of tackling global health challenges.

Reducing impact of disease globally

Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and UKRI’s International Champion said:

The UK government White Paper on International Development places global health and research and innovation at the centre of the UK’s approach to development.

This investment in global vaccine networks is critical for reducing the impact of disease globally complementing other investments made by the UK government in vaccine availability and production.

As starkly seen during the covid-19 pandemic, disease is no respecter of borders. UKRI continues to invest globally in research and innovation across human and animal diseases to help to protect us all.

Thriving international partnerships

Dr Mark Palmer, Director of International Strategy at the Medical Research Council said:

The UK’s research and innovation system thrives through international partnerships so I’m delighted these networks are able to continue their incredible work tackling infectious diseases that pose threats to people, livestock, crops and natural resources.

Investing in collaborations like these will better prepare us for future disease epidemics and to more effectively tackle the slow-moving pandemic of antimicrobial resistance.

These global networks are integral to ensuring the UK harnesses the extraordinary potential of research and innovation to enrich and improve the lives of people living in the UK and around the world.

Further information

Five global vaccine networks

The five global vaccine networks are:

Bacterial Vaccines Network (BactiVac)

Hosted at the University of Birmingham.

BactiVac is advancing the development of vaccines against bacterial pathogens and advocating for their use in combatting the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.

It is focusing on a One Health perspective, which encompasses both human and veterinary vaccines with a particular focus on benefit for LMICs.


Based at The Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh and is a joint initiative with The Pirbright Institute.

IVVN is addressing critical bottlenecks in the development of vaccines against animal diseases that threaten livelihoods, public health and animal welfare in LMICs.

Human Infection Challenge Network (HIC-Vac)

Hosted at Imperial College London.

HIC-Vac is working to accelerate the development of vaccines against pathogens of high global impact by supporting and developing human infection studies.


Led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

IMPRINT is focusing on biological and implementation challenges for maternal and neonatal immunisation, an effective tool to improve maternal and infant health across the globe including LMICs.

Vaccine Development for Complex Intracellular Neglected Pathogens (VALIDATE)

Led by the University of Oxford and Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

VALIDATE is accelerating vaccine development for three neglected pathogen groups primarily affecting people living in poverty:

  • mycobacteria (causing tuberculosis, leprosy and other diseases)
  • leishmania (causing leishmaniasis)
  • burkholderia (causing melioidosis)

Top image:  Credit: Adene Sanchez, E+ via Getty Images

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