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VMIC Equipment Enables Rapid MHRA Approval of Vaccine Suites – Accelerating Production of Leading COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, underscores the importance of establishing a domestic manufacturing base from scratch

Tuesday 6th October 2020, Harwell, Oxfordshire: Announced today by the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now approved the second of two GMP manufacturing suites that house VMIC’s specialist vaccines manufacturing equipment - resulting in two fully equipped, approved manufacturing suites to make a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

As part of the national response to develop vaccine for COVID-19, the two suites established with VMIC equipment will be operating at 1000L scale and will be dedicated to the manufacture of a leading COVID-19 viral vector vaccine candidate. The suites, operated by Oxford Biomedica, are located in their commercial manufacturing centre, Oxbox, in Oxford, UK and are expected to be fully operational in October.

Supported by government funding through UK Research and Innovation, the collaboration between VMIC and Oxford Biomedica signed in June 2020 enabled the UK to establish a rapid deployment centre or ‘Virtual VMIC’ whilst the permanent VMIC facility was being built. The aim being to rapidly build capability in the UK to manufacture a vaccine for COVID-19 rather than wait until VMIC’s permanent facility opens in 2021.

Dr Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive, The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, 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.“

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 two 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.”

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 on-line 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”

Andy Jones, Medicines Manufacturing Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation (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 sufficient volume. The approval, by the MHRA, of the manufacturing suites and VMIC equipment will ensure that a vaccine can rapidly be manufactured ahead of final regulatory approval.”

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. It is envisaged that 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 NGOs such as Wellcome and CEPI, thereby underpinning the activity and strength of the UK in the vaccine area.