UCL Biochemical Engineering receives funding

To develop thermostable viral vaccines using Stabilitech technology

The Department of Biochemical Engineering at University College London (UCL), has received funding through Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address health and development challenges.

Tarit Mukhopadhyay will pursue his global health and development research project, titled ‘Eliminate the Cold Chain with Low-Cost Liquid Viral Vaccines’.

GCE funds scientists worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.

This project is one of more than 100 GCE Round 8 grants announced today (29 May) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mukhopadhyay is working in partnership with Stephen Ward at Stabilitech to couple UCL’s vaccine bioprocess development platform with a novel stabilisation technology to create thermo-stable viral vaccines. Most of the world’s vaccines are centrally manufactured and refrigerated in the cold chain during delivery and storage before use. However, the cold chain frequently fails, meaning that millions of doses of vaccines are wasted each year.

Stabilitech says its technology has the potential to stabilise vaccines including fragile live vaccines, both in a liquid or a lyophilised form, preventing losses caused by manufacturing stresses and high and low temperature spikes, which are often seen during global distribution.

The chemical formulation system developed by Stabilitech is designed to fit easily with current manufacturing processes, which UCL Biochemical Engineering is already able to mimic at a small scale and validate at pilot scale. The combined technologies will demonstrate the applicability of the platforms to the development of more stable vaccines.

The goal is to create vaccines that can withstand the harsh extremes of heat and cold, and in doing so reduce the waste, cost and delay in immunisation programmes. If successful it will save lives from vaccine preventable deaths.

The US$100m GCE initiative was launched four years ago and since then more than 600 people in 45 countries have received grants. The scheme is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organisation.

Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded twice a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1m.

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