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New testing centre to fast-track COVID-19 variant vaccines

Vaccines tailored to tackle COVID-19 variants are to be accelerated through new state-of-the-art labs, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

The Government will invest £29.3 million through the Vaccines Taskforce in Public Health England’s new testing facilities at Porton Down, to assess the effectiveness of existing and new vaccines against variants of concern.

The funding will increase the site’s current capacity from 700 to 3,000 blood samples tested a week in order to fast-track variant vaccines. These tests measure the levels of antibodies to COVID-19 that are generated by the vaccines.

The investment will enable Porton Down’s expert scientists to accelerate the pace and scale of specialised testing to support the rapid development of vaccines designed to combat specific mutations of COVID-19.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The UK has proven itself to be a world-class force in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax and Valneva vaccines all researched, developed or manufactured on British soil.

"We’ve backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic and this multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants. We are committed to supporting the UK’s flourishing life-sciences industry and this announcement is yet another critical way we will build back better to protect the country over the coming months and years."

While there is promising evidence existing vaccines are effective against variants such as those first identified in Kent and South Africa, work continues to ensure we have a robust programme to test current and potential future variants of concern.

The expanded testing capacity at Porton Down will ensure the UK stays one step ahead of the virus and is in the best possible position to respond to new threats from COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

The Government is working with existing and new suppliers to design vaccines targeted at variants of concern and the Porton Down facility will support this process.

Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said: "Our vaccination programme has so far saved thousands of lives, but it’s vital we put in place robust support for the programme for the future. This funding will allow us to increase the testing capacity at Porton Down with a new innovative facility and ensure our COVID-19 vaccines are effective against any future variants of concern. 

"The UK remains at the forefront of vaccine research and development and this announcement will further cement us as a global frontrunner in our future response to COVID-19."

All vaccines being used in the UK have met the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.

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Upcoming Events

AfPP Annual Conference 2022

University of York
8-11 September 2022

Infection 360: What's trending in infection prevention & control

Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham
27-28 September 2022

IP2022 IS COMING TO BOURNEMOUTH IN OCTOBER 2022

Bournemouth
17-19 October 2022

UKHCA Conference: Listen Up

Pendulum Hotel and Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester
3rd November 2022

MEDICA 2022

Dusseldorf Germany
14th November - 17th November

Future Surgery 2022

ExCel, London
15th - 16th November 2022

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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