Oxford to lead global collaboration to research and develop next-generation COVID-19 and flu vaccines

10 October 2023

  • Project headed by Oxford University’s Professor Teresa Lambe OBE (Calleva Head of Vaccinology and Immunology, Department of Paediatrics) and co-developer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and Paul Klenerman (Sidney Truelove Professor, Nuffield Department of Medicine)
  • £8 million funding from UKRI will catalyse global cooperation to improve understanding of existing COVID-19 vaccines and enhance future vaccine development
  • The research aims to enhance protection against several current and future respiratory pathogens – including COVID-19, flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – contributing crucial new knowledge to future pandemic preparedness.

Oxford University has launched a new global collaboration backed by £8 million funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The research will better understand how through vaccination, the training and preservation of protective immune response can keep us safe from disease, contributing crucial new knowledge for future pandemic preparedness.

The consortium, made up of leading academic and industrial partners, will work on the development of better vaccines that will offer protection against multiple strains of COVID-19. The research aims to enhance protection against several respiratory pathogens, including influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The work will also establish global networks of trained personnel with the scientific tools to better prepare the world for the next pandemic.

The ambitious research project– titled IMMPROVE: Immune Memory and Mechanisms of Protection from Vaccines – is headed by Professor Teresa Lambe OBE and Professor Paul Klenerman, both Principal Investigators in the University of Oxford’s Pandemic Sciences Institute, and is one of three projects announced today by UKRI under its Tackling Infections strategic theme, which is investigating future infectious disease threats.

Professor Teresa Lambe, Calleva Head of Vaccine Immunology said: “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.”

Paul Klenerman, Sidney Truelove Professor, said: “The UK scientific community rose to the challenge of the pandemic and in doing so it brought many different groups together to collaborate in new networks. This consortium continues the spirit of that collaboration to address some of the key remaining challenges, not just for COVID-19, but for vaccines in general. I’m delighted to be involved and looking forward to working with such a great team of people.”

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.

Other industrial and non-profit partners include AstraZeneca, Sanofi Pasteur, Moderna, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the rapid development and deployment of a range of vaccine platforms. While essential to protect against severe disease, these vaccine platforms need further optimisation to provide long-term and local protection against infection, including from future variants. Building on past experience accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic, this consortium will 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 strengthen the capacity of the UK and global vaccines programme, bolstering research efforts with real-world impact, providing access to state-of-the-art resources, expertise, and career development for Early Career Researchers and promoting vaccine uptake.

Notes to editors

About the University of Oxford
Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the eighth year running, and number 3 in the QS World Rankings 2024. At the heart of this success are the twin-pillars of our ground-breaking research and innovation and our distinctive educational offer.
Oxford is world-famous for research and teaching excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research alongside our personalised approach to teaching sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.
Through its research commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked first in the UK for university spinouts, having created more than 300 new companies since 1988. Over a third of these companies have been created in the last five years. The university is a catalyst for prosperity in Oxfordshire and the United Kingdom, contributing £15.7 billion to the UK economy in 2018/19, and supports more than 28,000 full time jobs. 

About the Oxford Vaccine Group (Department of Paediatrics, Medical Science Division, Oxford University)
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 3 decades. OVG was founded in 1994 by Professor E. Richard Moxon. As one of the world’s leading academic vaccine research teams, led since 2001 by Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, the OVG undertake vaccine research spanning basic science and preclinical studies through to epidemiological studies, human challenge models and phase I-III clinical trials. Current research at the Oxford Vaccine Group includes research on vaccines for outbreak pathogens and pandemics, enteric pathogens, bacterial and viral respiratory infections, and the use of human challenge models to accelerate vaccine development.

About the Pandemic Sciences Institute, University of Oxford
The Pandemic Sciences Institute at the University of Oxford is a research institute with a mission to discover, create and enable practical solutions to infectious disease threats worldwide. Visit our website and follow us on X (Twitter).

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