Vaccines are vital – they prevent disease, save countless lives and cut healthcare costs. But infections like malaria and typhoid still kill millions of people each year. And emerging diseases, such as Ebola and Lassa fever, can cause deadly epidemics. The world urgently needs better, faster ways to develop and use vaccines.

Priority areas

We set priority areas where we want to see, lead and be accountable for change.

Funding through this priority area is in addition to the funding we already offer for research across all areas of science. 

Through our schemes, we will continue to fund a breadth of science research.

Explore other priority areas

Learn more

We set priority areas where we want to see, lead and be accountable for change.

Funding through this priority area is in addition to the funding we already offer for research across all areas of science. 

Through our schemes, we will continue to fund a breadth of science research.

Explore other priority areas

What we want to achieve

Wellcome has long been committed to creating affordable vaccines for people in low- and middle-income countries, and to funding the development and use of vaccines to fight some of the most challenging infectious diseases.  

But more needs to be done to develop new vaccines, and to use existing ones in a better way. 

Through this priority area we want: 

Funding through the priority area is in addition to the funding we already offer for research across all areas of science. Applications for our existing schemes won’t change and your research won’t stand a greater or lesser chance of being funded if it includes a focus on vaccines. 

A huge opportunity

  • Vaccines already save at least 2 to 3 million lives every year.
  • Another 1.5 million deaths could be prevented each year through better vaccination coverage.
  • Making a safe vaccine typically takes more than 10 years.

The areas we're focusing on

A world prepared for epidemics

The spread of infectious diseases like Ebola and Zika have shown how vulnerable the world is to epidemics. 

Many of the infectious diseases that we know pose the greatest threat could be prevented with vaccines. But the vaccines we need aren’t being developed often enough or quickly enough – developing a vaccine from scratch typically takes more than 10 years.  

We’re a founding partner in CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. CEPI will support development of vaccines against known threats, so they can be used to contain outbreaks before they become emergencies.

Find out how CEPI is working to outsmart epidemics.

We’ve partnered with the UK Department for International Development in the £25 million Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness. We're currently offering funding to support research into preventing and controlling cholera and the development of social science research protocols

We're also funding WHO to develop Research and Development Blueprint roadmaps for Lassa, Nipah, and Ebola viruses. The roadmaps will serve as strategic plans that describe the research and development steps needed to accelerate the production of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

Human infection studies 

From a new vaccine to prevent typhoid to understanding natural immunity to malaria, we’ve funded several studies using human infection studies. 

The studies involve vaccinating healthy volunteers and then deliberately exposing them to the infection, in a controlled setting, to test whether the vaccine works. It can give us an indication that a vaccine is safe and effective far more quickly than would be possible through large-scale population trials. 

We’re calling for an expansion of these studies to ensure that vaccines are relevant to the people most at risk.  

To support this work, we’ve run workshops on:

We've also supported researchers from low- and middle-income countries to attend the Second Human Challenge Trials Conference to talk about ethics, regulation and their experiences of human infection studies.  

Together with other funders of these studies, we've created and committed to a set of ethical principles to guide research and support a community of best practice. 

Our animation explains what human infection studies are and why they're important.

Evidence for decision-making  

Governments, policymakers and international organisations like GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, rely on evidence to prioritise how best to use new and existing vaccines. Sometimes, though, they lack even basic data on how many people are dying from a particular disease.  

We’re working to identify, support, share and apply relevant research so that decisions are based on better information.  

We’ve also commissioned a review of the evidence on the role of vaccines in combatting antimicrobial resistance. The results will be published in late 2018.  

Strengthened vaccine expertise 

We’re using Wellcome’s strong, longstanding research connections in low- and middle-income countries to increase the expertise of people who can influence and support national and global vaccines agendas. This includes regulators, policymakers, researchers and developers. 

Why do we need vaccines?

Vaccines are one of our most effective health interventions, but are often misunderstood. In our Q&A, we explain what they are, how they work and why they are important.

Read the Q&A: Why do we need vaccines?

Reports and briefings

Exploring terminology and naming for controlled human infection models [PDF 415KB]

The current language used to describe controlled human infection models is complex, with many different names being used. This report highlights issues with existing terminology and recommendations for new terminology. The recommended term identified is Human infection studies. 

Vaccines for antimicrobial resistance

This report, commissioned by Wellcome and produced by Boston Consulting Group, looks at the opportunities and challenges around developing vaccines to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance and immunisation

A briefing on the potential for immunisation as a strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance, both globally and in the UK.

Money and microbes: strengthening research capacity to prevent epidemics

This report sets out how to develop the political support, financing and coordination required to build clinical research capacity in low- and middle-income countries, which is key to stemming the spread of epidemics.

Human infection studies

We held a workshop with the Academy of Medical Sciences, HIC-Vac and the Medical Research Council, to discuss the current environment for human infection studies in the UK and internationally.

Articles

Ebola: how a killer disease was stopped in its tracks

Josie Golding explains how an Ebola vaccine helped stop an epidemic in DR Congo – and why doing research during outbreaks makes us better prepared for the next one. 

Why Ebola keeps coming back

While it is impossible to predict exactly where and when the next outbreak will occur, we now know much more about how to prevent a crisis. 

The killer disease with no vaccine

Charlie Weller looks at why Lassa fever is hard to detect and difficult to treat. 

Why are some flu outbreaks so much worse than others?

Flu comes along every winter, but how many people it will infect – and just how poorly they will be – is incredibly difficult to predict.  

Our team

We're working closely with other experts and partner organisations, including vaccine manufacturers, governmental and non-governmental bodies, academic researchers and charities.

Our strategic advisory board provides guidance on this priority area.

If you have any questions or comments, contact the team: vaccines@wellcome.ac.uk.

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