Matt Hancock announced this afternoon during the government’s daily Coronavirus press conference that £20 million in funding will be allocated towards a vaccine research team in Oxford, led by Professor Sarah Gilbert.
Along with a team at Imperial College, Hancock described Oxford’s vaccine research as “promising”, announcing the government’s plan to “back them to the hilt and give them every resource that they need to get the best possible chance of success, as soon as possible.” The vaccine from the Oxford project will begin its human trial on Thursday, with Hancock adding that “in normal times, reaching this stage would take years.”
Hancock described the UK as leading the global effort to produce a vaccine, adding that “we’ve put more money than any other country into the global search for a vaccine.” In addition to the £20 million allocated towards Oxford’s research, the team at Imperial College will be granted £22.5 million to support their phase 2 clinical trials. Both teams were described as making “rapid progress”.
Although he reassured the public of the government’s commitment towards supporting the search for a vaccine, he warned that success is not a guaranteed outcome. He said: “Nothing about this process is certain. Vaccine development is a process of trial and error, and trial again. That’s the nature of how vaccines are developed. But I’ve told Sarah Gilbert and Robin Shattock, two of our most inspiring scientists, that we are going to back them to the hilt and give them every resource that they need to get the best possible chance of success. As soon as possible.”
The benefits of pioneering the production of a vaccine would be great, he declared: “the upside of being the first country in the world to develop a vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it.” Hancock also announced that the UK will invest in manufacturing capability so that, if successful, the vaccine can be made widely available to the public.