Imperial College London forms new social enterprise

Imperial College London has established a new social enterprise VacEquity Global Health (VGH) to ensure that its COVID-19 vaccine has global reach.

Imperial and VGH will waive royalties and charge only modest cost-plus prices in the UK and low-income countries abroad, to 'sustain the enterprise’s work, accelerate global distribution and support new research'.

The aim 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, with support from Imperial and Morningside Ventures.

Morningside and Imperial also announced the launch of a a separate startup company VaXEquity (VXT), which will develop the underlying self-amplifying RNA technology to treat other health conditions beyond the current pandemic.

The COVID-19 vaccine will enter Phase I/II human trials on June 15 with 300 people, while a further efficacy trial involving 6,000 people is planned for October.

If these are successful, the vaccine can be distributed in the UK and overseas early next year, Imperial said, noting that this is possible 'because 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 such, there is capacity for the production of tens of millions of vaccines from early 2021, with UK residents set to be among the first to benefit from access should trials succeed.

“We have spent an intense six months to fast-track our vaccine to the clinic, now we are ready to combat the virus through our clinical trials,” said Professor Robin Shattock, head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College London, and co-founder of both VGH and VXT.

“These new enterprises are the most effective way for us to deliver COVID-19 vaccines quickly, cheaply and internationally, while preparing for future pandemics.”

Gerald Chan, co-founder of Morningside, added: “No medical intervention has saved more lives in human history than vaccines. The Imperial vaccine technology is a ground-breaking innovation that is readily scalable. This technology has been developed with scientific rigor and a regard for manufacturing scale that is required for any solution to the present pandemic.”

8th June 2020

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