A total of £ 29.3million will be spent on building the ‘state-of-the-art’ laboratories at Public Health England’s new testing facilities at the top-secret Department of Defense compound in Wiltshire.
Scientists will be able to test 3,000 blood samples per week – more than four times the current number – for levels of COVID-19[feminine[feminine antibodies generated by vaccines so that they can assess their effectiveness against the variants of concern.
The increase in the number of tests will allow the rapid development of vaccines designed to “fight specific mutations in COVID-19,” the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said.
There are concerns that vaccines may not be effective against variants that may be more transmissible and more deadly.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the virus responsible for COVID-19 has managed to rapidly develop several mutations that have concerned scientists, including the Kent, South African, Indian and Brazilian variants.
Anthony Harnden, deputy head of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), which advises the government, warned in March that booster vaccines to combat future variants may be needed as early as this fall.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK has proven to be a world-class force in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the Oxford / AstraZeneca, Novavax and Valneva vaccines all being researched, developed or made on UK soil.
‘We have supported UK science since the very beginning of this pandemic and this multi-million pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility in Porton Down will allow us to better protect the country from the threat of new variants.
“We are committed to supporting the thriving life sciences industry in the UK and this announcement is another essential way to rebuild to better protect the country in the months and years to come. “
The new labs will join the Porton Down facility approved in September, which will more than double current clinical trials of vaccines from 700 variant samples per week to 1,500 by January 2022 at a cost of $ 19.7 million. of pounds sterling.
The date by which the new labs are expected to be completed has not been released by the government.
Dr Jenny Harries, managing director of the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said that a new variant that may elude current vaccines is’ the greatest risk of a third wave ‘and that the new investment’ we will help keep one step ahead of the virus ”.