UK ramps up vaccine manufacture capabilities

The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) has announced rapid expansion of recruitment, in order to meet anticipated demand in 2021.

The VMIC, a not-for-profit organisation, which provides strategic vaccine development and advanced manufacturing capability, has appointed 50 people into new roles, growing the VMIC team from 10 to 60, since May 2020. The rapid recruitment is part of an ambitious programme of work that aims to ensure VMIC is ready to open in 2021, a year ahead of schedule.

A vital part of this latest recruitment phase is the appointment of 10 Biotechnologists which will ensure there is a highly skilled team ready to manufacture a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate, once approved, when the VMIC facility is operationally ready.

The specialist biotech team will undertake an intensive training programme delivered by Oxford Biomedica as part of a collaboration signed in June. The training will take place at Oxford Biomedica’s commercial manufacturing centre Oxbox, where VMIC’s vaccine manufacturing equipment is currently situated in two newly approved GMP suites, which form ‘Virtual VMIC’. The training programme will focus on GMP operations of viral vector vaccines in order to enable VMIC to immediately start running a manufacturing process in this specialist area when the permanent facility opens.

Dr Matthew Duchars, chief executive, the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, said: “We’ve had to grow rapidly as an organisation, responding to the needs of the nation now and also in the future. The new people joining us will be protecting lives in years to come with the delivery of new and novel vaccines. Strengthening the UK’s vaccines community is core to our mission and this is our first step on that journey.

The 50 newly appointed roles across VMIC range from manufacturing, quality assurance and quality control, to business support, finance and human resources. Up to 30 further roles will open between now and Q1 2021. These roles will span multiple functions including quality assurance, facilities and engineering, and business development.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs a vaccine could be rolled out by the NHS from 1 December if it gets approval. Early results released on Monday showed a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech could prevent more than 90% of people from getting COVID-19. However, the Health Secretary acknowledged that there were still no guarantees it would be approved and questions remained over the impact it would have on the transmission of the virus.