UK government pledges £20m to CEPI for coronavirus vaccine research

The UK Health Secretary announced the government will give Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) £20 million to research vaccines for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

vaccine in hand

The UK government has announced it has pledged £20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to aid development of a vaccine against 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The funding was announced when Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited Public Health England’s Porton Down laboratory last week. According to the government, the money will fund research into vaccines, diagnostics and cures against 2019-nCoV and other future viral epidemics. The three 2019-nCoV projects which will be supported aim to advance vaccine candidates into clinical testing as quickly as possible.

Hancock stated: “The UK is a hub of world-leading and pioneering research and it is vital that we lead the way in developing new vaccines to target global threats with scientists from across the world… The £20 million announced today will help our globally recognised vaccine development capabilities continue to develop new defences against emerging diseases including coronavirus.”

The money will go to CEPI, whose Chief Executive Officer Dr Richard Hatchett said: “CEPI welcomes the UK’s continued support and funding for our vital work, which comes at a crucial moment as the world races to respond to the emergence of a novel coronavirus. The rapid global spread and unique epidemiological characteristics of the virus are deeply concerning.

Our hope is that, with our partners, we can get an investigational vaccine from gene sequencing of the pathogen through to clinical testing in 16 weeks. The earliest stage of clinical trials (Phase I), to establish the safety of investigational vaccines, would take around two to four months.

This is an extremely ambitious timeline – indeed, it would be unprecedented in the of field vaccine development. It is important to remember that even if we are successful – and there can be no guarantee – there will be further challenges to navigate before we can make vaccines more broadly available.”

The government has also initiated talks with the UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and the government’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) department regarding plans to run a rapid research call to support the global response to 2019-nCoV.