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Global collaboration to develop next-generation COVID-19 and flu vaccines launched

This research will help us better understand the processes by which vaccines lead to immune protection.

Currently only one percent of the vaccines used in Africa are produced on the continent of 1.3 billion people
Currently only one percent of the vaccines used in Africa are produced on the continent of 1.3 billion people - Copyright AFP GREG BAKER
Currently only one percent of the vaccines used in Africa are produced on the continent of 1.3 billion people - Copyright AFP GREG BAKER

The COVID-19 (SARS CoV-2) pandemic saw the rapid development and deployment of a range of vaccine platforms. These vaccine platforms need further optimisation to provide long-term and local protection against future variants, together with improved tracking to support epidemiology.

New research aims to enhance protection against several current and future respiratory pathogens, including COVID-19, influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). In the process it is hoped to contribute important new knowledge to future pandemic preparedness.

With the announcement, Oxford University has launched a new global collaboration backed by £8 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The research will seek to further understand how, through vaccination, the training and preservation of protective immune response can keep us safe from disease.

The research project– titled IMMPROVE: Immune Memory and Mechanisms of Protection from Vaccines – is headed by Professor Teresa Lambe OBE and Professor Paul Klenerman. It is one of three projects announced by UKRI under its Tackling Infections strategic theme.

Professor Teresa Lambe, Calleva Head of Vaccine Immunology states: “I’m excited to work with this world-leading team of scientists on this important programme of work. This research will help us better understand the processes by which vaccines lead to immune protection and how best to stimulate these, helping us prepare for the next pandemic.”

The Oxford Vaccine Group is part of the Department of Paediatrics led the rapid clinical development of vaccines against COVID-19 in the pandemic and has made major contributions to knowledge supporting national and global policy on immunisation over three decades.

Alongside the University of Oxford, academic research partners include Babraham Institute, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham, Imperial College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, University of Southampton the PITCH consortium (involving researchers in Oxford, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Sheffield Universities), the Sanger Institute, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Royal Veterinary College. Industrial partners include AstraZeneca, Sanofi Pasteur, Moderna, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

By building on past experience accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the consortium seeks to improve understanding of how a protective immune response is induced, how it is maintained, and the role of immunity in the nose and the lungs.

In the long term, the consortium will attempt to strengthen the capacity of the UK and global vaccines programme.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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