New vaccines could be manufactured in as little as 100 days, according to a blueprint put forward by scientists at the University of Oxford.
The streamlined process could see millions of adenovirus-vectored vaccines – such as those used in the fight against COVID-19 – developed in about a quarter of the time it takes for current COVID jabs. This could “save many lives,” the researchers say.
The paper, submitted to BioRxiv and currently awaiting peer review, claims clinical trials could be possible within just 60 days of the identification of a new virus and could be mass production ready in the 40 days after that.
This would enable Oxford’s ChAdOx vaccines, including its AstraZeneca vaccine, to hit the target set earlier this year by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The so-called “moonshot” objective aims to shorten vaccine production timelines to 100 days.
“When a new virus is identified, vaccine production is a race against time,” Dr Sandy Douglas, who leads the vaccine manufacturing research group in the Jenner Institute, at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.
“Some people think that adenovirus-vectored vaccines are slow to manufacture – and that’s just not true.”
The time it takes to manufacture vaccines, fill them into vials, and test them is pretty much ubiquitous for all vaccines, he explains. It’s the preparation to start manufacturing that is the crucial part of the process.
“For an adenovirus-vectored vaccine, the key bit of preparation is to make a ‘seed’ virus. That’s the only thing that needs to change to make a new vaccine – so we’ve looked carefully at how to make that seed quickly. In a pandemic, saving a few days could save many lives,” Douglas added.
Adenovirus manufacturing requires the generation of a virus “stock” or “seed virus” with which to infect cells. To speed this process up, the team recommends a method called perfusion, which removes the waste products that slow down vaccine production – “like giving the manufacturing process a kidney”.
Following this protocol, the rate of vaccine production could, in future, be quadrupled, the paper states. If factories were prepared, a billion doses could be produced within 130 days of a new virus being identified, the team believes.
“When CEPI set its objective to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days, it rightly called this a ‘moonshot’. What’s remarkable is that this team have shown this could be achieved with a type of vaccine that many thought would never be able to be produced so fast,” Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, at the University of Oxford said.
“It is game-changing work.”