FCDO Minister meets with University of Oxford’s vaccine researchers

26 January 2024 

The University of Oxford today welcomed the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister for Development and Africa, to the laboratories and clinics of several of its vaccine development groups.

Mr. Mitchell, along with Professor Charlotte Watts, FCDO Chief Scientific Adviser and Director for Research and Evidence, toured the research facilities of the Jenner Institute, the Oxford Vaccine Group and the Pandemic Sciences Institute, following the government announcement in Davos of an additional £10 million to support the effective roll-out of two new malaria vaccines both developed by British science.

This visit underscores the collaborative efforts between the UK government and University of Oxford in the global fight against infectious diseases and highlights the pivotal role that Oxford has to play in advancing critical vaccine development for diseases prevalent in low- and middle-income countries and the prevention of future pandemics.

Mr. Mitchell met with Professor Sir Adrian Hill, whose lab designed the high efficacy R21/Matrix-MTM malaria vaccine which recently received World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification. The Minister had first-hand insight into the innovative research methodologies and cutting-edge technologies employed by Oxford researchers across several Malaria trials which are running concurrently.

Minister for Development Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP said: “Every week, Malaria kills 10,000 children under 5 and pregnant women. The tragedy is that these deaths are entirely preventable.
“British science has invented game changing malaria vaccines which will help protect millions of people and save thousands of lives. The government is committed to rolling these out as effectively and ambitiously as possible as part of global efforts to make malaria history.”

Professor Adrian Hill, Director and Founder of the Jenner Institute, which focuses on developing vaccines for infectious diseases prevalent in LMIC countries, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, said: “This funding comes at a critical moment, allowing us to pursue our ambitious programme to develop vaccines against Malaria and to pursue our life saving work against future pandemics.”

Mr. Mitchell, who co-chairs the government committee for pandemic preparedness, also met with several leading Principal Investigators working on outbreak pathogen vaccines at the University including Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, Professor Teresa Lambe OBE, Professor Sir Peter Horby and Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert.

They discussed Oxford’s development of vaccines for diseases with pandemic potential including Nipah, Junin, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Chikungunya, Ebola Sudan, Marburg, Plague, Q Fever, Rift Valley and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), and the strategies in place to prepare for future outbreaks.

Professor Teresa Lambe OBE, Calleva Head of Vaccine Immunology, Professor of Vaccinology & Immunology, and PSI Investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG), said: “ We need to build on what we have learned from previous pandemics to prepare for both localised outbreaks and also more significant epidemics. Only by working together, across boundaries and disciplines generating a blueprint of what to do and when to do it, can we truly prepare for the next pandemic. Building resilience in the system and working across disciplines will not only protect us against future pandemics but will also spur great scientific advances with impact for all.”

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Pandemic Sciences Institute (PSI) said: “Creating a safe and effective vaccine necessitates collaboration between academia, government, and industry. Our team has spent a considerable amount of time devising strategies to expedite the process from the moment a new pathogen is detected, through clinical trials, to vaccine production, without compromising safety. This process cannot be accomplished by a single laboratory, institution, or sector. If we aspire to advance novel vaccines and prevent the spread of endemic viruses, we must invest in large-scale facilities and consortia of researchers, who have individual responsibilities but collaborate to achieve a common goal.”

Notes to Editors:

Media queries Dr. Adriaan Louis Taljaard, Manager Strategic Communications (Vaccines) on Adriaan.taljaard@admin.ox.ac.uk

Link to pictures and collateral (Photo credit: John Cairns/University of Oxford)

The Jenner Institute brings together investigators who are designing and developing numerous vaccines to generate an exceptional breadth of scientific know-how and critical mass, whilst still allowing the individual investigators to remain independent and accountable to their funders and stakeholders. Visit our website.

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. The Institute is hosted by the University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine. Visit our website and Follow us on X (formerly Twitter).

The Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) designs and conducts studies of new and improved vaccines for children and adults around the world and is based in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Oxford. Visit our website and follow us on X.

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