Westminster Diary

21st April 2020

Right now, people across the UK are making sacrifices. Staying at home to protect our NHS and save lives. It is challenging, but we need to keep going. Working together to defeat Coronavirus, the invisible enemy. And, in the long-term, one of the ways we can defeat this virus will be to find a vaccine.

To that end, last Friday, in my capacity as Business Secretary, I announced that the Government had set up a Vaccines Taskforce.

This will co-ordinate the efforts of government, academia and industry to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine and make it available to the public as quickly as possible.

The taskforce will report to me and the Health Secretary, and is led by Sir Patrick and Professor Jonathan van Tam. Members include Government Life Sciences Champion Sir John Bell, as well as AstraZeneca, and the Wellcome Trust.

It will support Britain’s most promising research, co-ordinate with regulators to facilitate rapid, well-supervised trials and work with industry to help manufacture vaccines at scale.

Last Friday, I also confirmed that the Government had green-lighted a further 21 research projects to help fight coronavirus. In total, these projects will receive £14 million from a £25 million government research investment and include backing the development of a vaccine at Imperial College London.

This follows support for six projects, announced last month, including vaccine development led by Professor Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute. This is already carrying out preclinical trials and, with government support, will shortly move into a clinical trial phase.

And when we do make a breakthrough, we need to be ready to manufacture it by the millions.

One tool in this fight will be the UK’s first Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre based in Harwell. This will help build our capacity to mass produce vaccines here in the UK and the Government will be accelerating the building of this facility.

Yet even with all these efforts, we should be under no illusions. Producing a vaccine is a colossal undertaking, which will take many months.

There are no guarantees. But we live in a country with a rich history of pioneering science. And with the Government backing our scientists we have the best chance to find a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Coronavirus - COVID-19

Image by Olga Lionart from Pixabay

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