UK’s rapid response vaccines manufacturing centre now approved

Allegro STR bioreactors 50 L and 200 L

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now approved both of the virtual Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) manufacturing lines, ensuring they will be fully operational later this month.

As part of the national response to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, virtual VMIC will be dedicated to manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s found to be effective and approved.

Supported by government funding provided by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the collaboration between VMIC and Oxford Biomedica enables the UK to establish a rapid deployment centre or ‘virtual VMIC’ while the permanent VMIC facility is being built.

Manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine

Virtual VMIC will manufacture a vaccine for COVID-19 ahead of the opening of VMIC’s permanent facility, which is also being fast-tracked, next year.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma, said:

We need to be ready to manufacture a vaccine by the millions as quickly as possible if a breakthrough is made. Building up the UK’s capability to produce a COVID-19 vaccine at scale is an essential part of our pandemic response, which is why we have moved so quickly to establish a domestic manufacturing base from scratch.

The approval of these 2 critical manufacturing suites will ensure we have even more capacity to protect the public as soon as a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Andy Jones, medicines manufacturing challenge director at UKRI, said:

When we provided additional funding to both speed the building of VMIC and provide for a virtual manufacturing centre, we recognised that we needed both innovative approaches to vaccine development and the ability to deliver vaccines at speed and in volume.

The approval, by the MHRA, of the manufacturing suites and VMIC equipment will ensure that a vaccine can rapidly be manufactured once an effective vaccine is approved.

Dr Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive, VMIC, said:

This is a milestone moment in the UK’s fight against COVID-19. These suites, which house VMIC equipment, will have the ability to make tens of millions of doses of the current leading vaccine candidate.

The approval from the MHRA is testament to the hard work and dedication of teams across VMIC, Oxford Biomedica and all the partners working with us on this vital project.

John Dawson, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford Biomedica, said:

We are delighted that these suites in Oxbox are now operational. I want to personally thank all of those at Oxford Biomedica who have worked tirelessly to bring these suites online so quickly to enable the manufacturing at scale of the vaccine candidate.

We also want to thank VMIC for their support with the rapid deployment of their equipment to our site, which has played a key part in achieving operational readiness of these suites in such a short timeframe.

Further information

The permanent VMIC facility, due to open in 2021, will be located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, UK. The state-of-the-art facility will house specialist equipment drawing on both innovative and traditional technologies.

Much of the work at the new facility will be collaborative ventures with organisations ranging from small and medium sized businesses, through to large multinationals and non-governmental organisations such as Wellcome and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, underpinning the activity and strength of the UK in the vaccine area.

Top image:  Allegro™ STR bioreactors 50 L and 200 L (Credit: Courtesy of Pall Corp)

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