A centre of excellence for studying vaccine-preventable diseases has been launched in Bristol.
The centre is funded by coronavirus vaccine manufacturer Pfizer and is the second of a global network of sites to launch, and the first outside the US.
The Pfizer Centre of Excellence for Epidemiology of Vaccine-preventable Diseases, based at the University of Bristol, will undertake research to support the design, development and use of next-generation vaccines.
The pharmaceutical company said it had invested an initial £4.6 million into the centre to conduct surveillance studies in hospitals and the community to “identify and measure the burden of specific vaccine-preventable infectious diseases affecting adults, including the elderly, as well as children”.
The centre will be led by Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the university as well as director of the Bristol Vaccine Centre and lead at Bristol UNCOVER (Bristol COVID Emergency Research Group).
UK Government Health Secretary Matt Hancock visited the centre’s research laboratories on Tuesday to meet virologists Dr Andrew Davidson and Dr David Matthews.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the two doctors were the only team in a UK university working with “live” human coronaviruses of concern and were the first UK team to publish research using the live human SARS-CoV-2 virus in a controlled lab.
Professor Hugh Brady, vice chancellor and president at the university, said: “We are honoured to have been selected by Pfizer as one of its global vaccine centres of excellence.
“Bristol’s expertise, collaborative links with two NHS trusts and other health partners make it uniquely placed for conducting world-leading vaccine research.
“This partnership not only marks a major milestone for Bristol’s role in improving global public health, it also builds on our region’s historic legacy in population health, public health and vaccine research.”
Dr Luis Jodar, senior vaccine president and chief medical officer for vaccines at Pfizer, said the investment showed the pharmaceutical company’s “ongoing commitment to the UK’s thriving life sciences sector”.
“Well-conducted clinical population-based epidemiological research studies in adults is a critical component to better understanding the role that direct and potentially indirect effects of vaccination may have in reducing the impact and consequences of infectious diseases – insights which are perhaps more valuable than ever against the backdrop of this terrible pandemic,” he said.
Professor Adam Finn said: “Global research efforts are needed to help us better define and understand vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccine effectiveness.
“I am immensely proud to be part of this new partnership at a time when it has never been more critical for industry and academia to work together to overcome the plight of infectious diseases.”
The first of Pfizer’s centre of excellence sites was launched at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, in the US, in 2020.