A landmark global health declaration by G7 leaders, which was agreed at the G7 meeting in Carbis Bay, includes a commitment to ensure that the global devastation caused by COVID-19 is never repeated and the creation of a new centre to develop vaccines to prevent zoonotic diseases that spread from animals to humans. The new £40m UK Animal Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, funded by Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), will be established at The Pirbright Institute campus in Surrey, UK.
Three in every four new human diseases originate in animals and these diseases are emerging at an increasing rate. Controlling zoonotic diseases is a key element of the UK Government’s 5-Point Plan for preventing future pandemics – the first plan articulated by a G7 leader on pandemic preparedness. Part of this plan is to establish a UK Animal Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre at Pirbright with the aim of stopping new animal-borne diseases before they put people at risk.
The Carbis Bay declaration will set out the steps G7 countries will take to prevent a future pandemic, including slashing the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days, a commitment to reinforce global surveillance networks and genomic sequencing capacity and support for reforming and strengthening the World Health Organization.
The new centre will draw on Pirbright’s world leading expertise to accelerate the delivery of vaccines for livestock diseases. These diseases pose a risk to people if they mutate to become transmissible to humans and can devastate agriculture in the UK and internationally. Often the risks and complexities associated with early-stage vaccine research mean that the field struggles to get private investment. The centre will rapidly assess promising new technologies in the field, and develop and test novel vaccines for emerging diseases.
Pirbright played a role in the UK led fight against COVID-19 through its support for the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, by using an established pig model to test immune responses to the vaccine. Two devastating global diseases – smallpox and rinderpest (the first two diseases in history to be totally wiped out) were eradicated using vaccines developed by British scientists, the latter included Pirbright scientist Walter Plowright.
The new centre will cement Pirbright’s position as a centre of excellence in virus research and vaccine development and establish the UK as world leader in the rapidly growing field of novel livestock vaccine development capability. UK government will contribute £18.5 million while The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide £14.5m to establish the centre, building on its current investments in vaccines for livestock and zoonotic diseases at The Pirbright Institute.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“In the last year the world has developed several effective coronavirus vaccines, licenced and manufactured them at pace and is now getting them into the arms of the people who need them.
“But to truly defeat coronavirus and recover we need to prevent a pandemic like this from ever happening again. That means learning lessons from the last 18 months and doing it differently next time around.
“I am proud that for the first time today the world’s leading democracies have come together to make sure that never again will we be caught unawares.”
Professor Bryan Charleston, Director and CEO of Pirbright said:
“There is a global unmet need to accelerate the development of vaccines from the laboratory to provide effective products for livestock keepers to control disease in their animals. Preventing disease by vaccination will help secure food supplies and so improve human health and welfare. The importance of this centre has been recognised by UKRI-BBSRC, FCDO and BMGF who have worked together to develop a plan to establish this new facility that will also play a key role in controlling zoonotic diseases.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization said:
"We welcome the Carbis Bay Health Declaration, particularly as the world begins to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. Together we need to build on the significant scientific and collaborative response to the COVID-19 pandemic and find common solutions to address many of the gaps identified.
To this end WHO welcomes and will take forward the UK's proposal for a Global Pandemic Radar. As we discussed, the world needs a stronger global surveillance system to detect new epidemic and pandemic risks."
Rodger Voorhies, President, Global Growth & Opportunity at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said:
"We see this partnership as an exciting opportunity to build on British scientific excellence to safeguard the livelihoods of farmers in poor and marginalised communities around the globe, while protecting people everywhere from the increasing risk posed by zoonotic diseases."
Professor Melanie Welham, executive chief of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, a co-funder of the UK Animal Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre project said:
“In the last year, more than ever, we have recognised the global importance of vaccine research and how the UK plays a leading role. Now, we can take the opportunity of joining UK expertise with an international effort in the field of veterinary vaccines. The new facility – which BBSRC will co-fund – at the world-renowned Pirbright Institute, will be a shield and a sword against animal diseases that can devastate agriculture and infect human populations.”
The Carbis Bay declaration will be agreed by leaders today (Saturday 12 June) and published on 13 June alongside the G7 Summit Communique. It builds on the steps taken by others to strengthen pandemic preparedness this year, including the recent recommendations of the Independent Panel for Preparedness and Response.”
Image shows The BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building, Pirbright's state-of-the-art high containment research facility where initial vaccine development work will take place before being assessed in the new Animal Vaccine Innovation Centre. The Plowright Building was named after Walter Plowright, who developed a highly successful rinderpest vaccine that contributed to the eradication of the disease. Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2014 James Brittain