Home » Future of Immunization & Vaccines » How mRNA vaccine development can help the UK become pandemic-prepared

This article is sponsored by Moderna.

Darius Hughes

UK General Manager, Moderna

A major biotechnology company is helping to ensure the UK is ‘pandemic-prepared’ through the construction of a manufacturing and innovation centre. It aims to develop and produce mRNA vaccines for various known and unknown respiratory diseases.

One of the major learnings of the Covid-19 pandemic was that the world was ill-prepared. As a result, the G7, led by the UK Government, developed the ‘100-Day Mission to Respond to Future Pandemic Threats.’

mRNA vaccines manufacturing centre

Central to the mission is a 10-year agreement between the UK Government and Moderna, a biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines. Construction of the Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre (MITC) at the Harwell Science Campus in Oxfordshire is underway. It encompasses research, development, clinical trials and a clinical biomarker lab to provide the UK with access to mRNA vaccines for respiratory diseases in the event of another pandemic as well during endemic times.

Timely pandemic response

The company’s UK General Manager Darius Hughes says the centre will ensure the country is ‘pandemic-prepared’ by providing the UK Government with direct access to pandemic response capabilities. He explains that the centre will possibly enable the production of mRNA vaccines within 100 days for the nation.

“That gives us the ability to onshore mRNA vaccine development for the UK public,” says Hughes. “It also gives the Government the ability to upscale manufacturing in a very short period — because of the flexibility of mRNA — if we have another pandemic.”

Covering a range of diseases

mRNA is a code or message that the body produces to make a protein. They prompt the body to produce antibodies, which help fight disease. Once its job is done, the messenger is quickly broken down and leaves the body.

As well as Covid-19 vaccines, the Moderna mRNA platform manufactures those ‘messages’ for other viruses and bacteria. “The mRNA platform has the ability to be effective in producing vaccines and medicines across a wide range of therapy areas,” adds Hughes.

Access programme

The centre aims to provide a manufacturing hub for ‘endemic and pandemic times’ but also make the UK “one of the leading countries in the world for mRNA technology,” explains Hughes. Moreover, the centre will support local job creation — and skills development across the country — as it helps prepare the UK to respond to respiratory disease threats and future pandemics.

The Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre is expected to be operational by 2025, subject to planning and regulatory approvals in late 2023.

UK-MRNA-2300085 Date of preparation: September 2023

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