The hunt for a coronavirus vaccine has been given a boost by the launch of a Government taskforce.
Led by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan van Tam, it will support efforts to rapidly develop a vaccine as soon as possible.
As well as providing industry and research institutions with the resources and support, the group will review regulations to allow quick and safe vaccine trials.
It will also scale up manufacturing, so that when a vaccine becomes available, it can be produced quickly and in mass quantities.
Twenty-one new research projects combating coronavirus will receive Government funding from a £14 million investment.
This follows the Government’s £250 million pledge to develop a vaccine.
The vaccine taskforce is key to co-ordinating efforts to rapidly accelerate the development and manufacture of a potential new vaccine,Alok Sharma, Business Secretary
Representatives from Government, academia and industry will form the taskforce, including Government life sciences champion Sir John Bell, as well as AstraZeneca, and the Wellcome Trust.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma, who announced the taskforce at the daily Downing Street press conference, said: “UK scientists are working as fast as they can to find a vaccine that fights coronavirus, saving and protecting people’s lives.
“We stand firmly behind them in their efforts.
“The vaccine taskforce is key to co-ordinating efforts to rapidly accelerate the development and manufacture of a potential new vaccine, so we can make sure it is widely available to patients as soon as possible.”
The group will focus on five strands of activity including supporting the discovery of potential coronavirus vaccines and preparing the UK for clinical vaccine testing and manufacturing.
It is also working with the Bioindustry Association, which has set up an industry-led group, to accelerate vaccine development and manufacturing.
Chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said: “The taskforce will ensure that any potential coronavirus vaccine, when available, can be produced quickly and at scale so it can be made available to the public as quickly as possible.”
One project led by the University of Oxford will trial an anti-malarial drug to determine whether it could diminish the effects of Covid-19 on people in high risk groups.
Across the UK GP surgeries have been invited to take part in the trial to determine whether it could reduce the need for affected patients to go to hospital and speed up their recovery.
Imperial College London, which is testing a vaccine against coronavirus that aims for the body to produce more protective antibodies, will also receive funding.
Another project is Public Health England’s study on how Covid-19 can be transmitted from person to person by determining how long it can survive in the air and on different materials found in hospitals.
Chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “The UK has some of the best vaccine scientists in the world, but we need to take account of the whole development process.
“This taskforce will ensure the UK can take an end-to-end view.
“This includes funding research, like the recent NIHR/UKRI call, and ensuring manufacturing capability to deliver a Covid-19 vaccination as quickly as possible.”