The Government is to invest £93m to bring forward the opening of a new vaccine-manufacturing centre ready to begin production if a coronavirus vaccine is found.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) will now open in summer 2021 – 12 months earlier than planned.
The not-for-profit facility – located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxford – will have the capacity to produce enough doses for the entire UK population in as little as six months.
A further £38m is being invested in a rapid deployment facility which will be able to begin manufacturing at scale from the summer of this year if a vaccine becomes available before the new centre is complete.
Officials said the VMIC would also boost the UK’s long-term capacity for dealing with future viruses and accelerate the production of vaccines for existing illnesses such as the flu virus.
Announcing the investment, business secretary Alok Sharma said: “Once a breakthrough is made, we need to be ready to manufacture a vaccine by the millions.”
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) chief executive, Sir Mark Walport, said: “The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre is an essential new weapon in the UK’s arsenal against diseases and other biological threats, ensuring sufficient vaccines get to the public in the fastest possible time.
“The UKRI-funded teams at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London have developed potential coronavirus vaccines at unprecedented speed.
“By working with partners including Government, VMIC and the Vaccines Taskforce to fast-track the manufacturing capability, we are ensuring that momentum will continue all the way from lab to patient.”