British scientist have started to develop new vaccines for a new pandemic at the government’s high-security complex in Porton Down, Wiltshire for “Disease X.”
More than 200 scientists are working at the laboratory in Porton Down and have drawn up a list of possible threats of animal viruses which could infect humans in the future.
The Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) at Porton Down will look at pathogens which have no vaccine or where immunisation needs to be improved such as mpox or flu.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, said, “What we’re trying to do now is capture that really excellent work from Covid and make sure we’re using that as we go forward for any new pandemic threats.”
Dame Jenny said the term “disease X” is the term applied when scientists “don’t know what the next pathogen will be that will cause a pandemic,” which mean scientist need “to be ready.”
She added, “We don’t know what it is but we can get ready for some virus families.
“We can guess a little bit; we can look at changing the epidemiology of different viruses, we can look at changing climate and start to estimate, but we will never know 100%.
“What we try to do here is keep an eye on the ones that we do know. For example with Covid, we are still here testing all the new variants with the vaccines that have been provided to check they are still effective.
“But we are also looking at how quickly we can develop a new test that would be used if a brand new virus popped up somewhere.”
Professor Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer of UKHSA, said, “We know that through scientific advancement, we could detect and control these spreads before they have the impact that Covid-19 had on our lives.
“It’s not easy, but we know that if we strengthen surveillance and if we accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics, we could do so much better.
“We need to be prepared for all threats, including those that have not been detected yet.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said, “This new centre cements the UK’s global position spearheading pandemic preparedness, vaccine development, and scientific discovery.
“Hundreds of the world’s leading scientists are already in the centre working on vaccines against potential global health threats to protect the UK and save lives across the world.
“This state-of-the-art complex will also help us deliver on our commitment to produce new vaccines within 100 days of a new threat being identified.”