VacEquity Global Health: A social enterprise delivering Imperial College’s COVID19 vaccine for rapid deployment across the world

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By Professor Robin Shattock, Dr. Simon Hepworth, Ms Stephanie Morris

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted our lives and endangered the lives of many more across the globe. Vaccination provides the safest, most effective way to protect our lives and communities. Prof. Robin Shattock from Imperial College London developed a COVID-19 vaccine with the intention of supplying it solely through a non-profit, social enterprise delivering the vaccine globally where it is needed the most. As a result, VacEquity Global Health Ltd was born to deliver Imperial’s COVID-19 to the world.

The social enterprise’s mission is to rapidly develop vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and distribute them as widely as possible in the UK and overseas, including to low- and middle-income countries. For the UK and low-income countries abroad, Imperial and VGH will waive royalties and charge only modest cost-plus prices to sustain the enterprise’s work, accelerate global distribution and support new research.

The two new ventures are built upon years of research of Imperial Professor Robin Shattock, who pioneered the technology of self-amplifying RNA. The technology has the potential to be a game changer in vaccine development, manufacturing and distribution.

· The vaccine is completely synthetic, not made from real virus particles, and uses the genetic instructions for the surface protein of the virus, which can’t cause disease on its own, to enlist your body in creating antibodies to provide protection against the real coronavirus.

· The new technology behind this work will allow scientists to quickly develop new vaccines to respond to emerging diseases. As soon as the genetic code of new pathogens have been sequenced, scientists will be able to ‘plug in’ instructions for the equivalent of the coronavirus’s surface proteins, to create a new vaccine. This has the potential to revolutionise vaccine development and enable us to respond more quickly to changing or emerging diseases.

· The self-amplifying RNA technology lends itself to rapid manufacturing scale-up. A large amount of vaccine doses can be made in manufacturing facilities with a small footprint. As the vaccine enlists the help of your own body to produce the spike proteins, only a very tiny dose is needed for each person. Only small litre volumes of the Imperial COVID-19 vaccine could be used to vaccinate several people. To produce that many doses with a conventional vaccine, you might need ten thousand litres.

The team is seeking to find socially-minded vaccine manufacturers around the world to ensure we have supply chain and manufacturing partners ready to produce tens of millions of vaccines from early 2021.

Researchers at Imperial, a world top ten university, have been central to global efforts to understand and fight the novel coronavirus, from warning of its deadly contagion in January and accurately projecting its spread to new advances in virology, testing and ventilation

Professor Shattock said that if trials continue to show promising results, international trials will commence later this year with potential approval for the vaccine by mid-2021.

VacEquity Global Health is supported by Imperial College London, a world-class university with a mission to benefit society through excellence in science, engineering, medicine and business.

Views expressed in this publication are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

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