Vaccine Programme

The debate

After the presentations, the speakers joined the chair for a panel session to answer questions posed by the audience. Topics included: attracting people with the right skills; industry-based science; zoonotic diseases; and the international nature of drug development.

The UK must make sure it trains the right teams of people with the right skills. It was able to draw on that for the Covid pandemic but more people will be needed in vaccine manufacturing. This can get overlooked given the focus on clinical trials. The country must build that skills base.

It was suggested that more private sector investment could be brought into this field and that it was not just a matter for Government to provide all the support.

There is a great deal of expertise outside academic settings. There is a great deal of cutting-edge science, particularly in bio processing, that is based in companies. It is possible to have an excellent scientific career without remaining in an academic setting. And one of the lessons from this episode is the collaboration between academia and industry, getting together to find a solution.

Small companies often have a good core team but do not have the access to facilities to develop further. Here, the interactions between academia and the manufacturing groups can be beneficial. 

Should it be easier for scientists, particularly clinical scientists, to move between industry and academia and the Health Service seamlessly? In that way, people can develop their skills and then deliver across these different domains at different stages in their careers.

How can we prepare better for the next zoonotic pandemic, as this concerns both human and animal health? There are many zoonotic infections. But there is not the available money to develop vaccines for livestock. It would be possible to use the same platform technology in humans and in livestock. The manufacturing process must be highly purified for clinical use, but it could be a slightly less pure, and therefore cheaper, process for livestock applications. However, there are currently no schemes that allow the code development of human and veterinary vaccines, although it would make a great deal of sense to be able to do it.

The vaccine development depended on the engagement of multi-national networks. Industry is global in nature and supply chains are definitely international. There is, for example, a European supply community that has been built up over the past 40 years. For the future of UK programmes, we have to inspire the best people to come here from around the world. Those people are likely to come from the global south as much as from Europe over the coming years. The reality is that we live in a global marketplace and knowledge transcends national boundaries.