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.
On this page
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:
- the world to have a new, coordinated and systematic approach to developing and using vaccines during the next epidemic
- vaccine design and development to be informed by a better understanding of the people they’re intended to help
- industry and policymakers to have the evidence they need to decide which vaccines to develop and use
- countries to have the information and expertise to make sure the people who need it most are protected through immunisation.
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.
Source: World Health Organization
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.
We’ve partnered with the UK Department for International Development in the £25 million Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness. We've offered 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. Find out more about what human infection studies are and why we need them.
We’re calling for an expansion of these studies to make sure that vaccines are relevant to the people most at risk.
Our scheme supports teams of researchers working on human infection studies in low- and middle-income countries.
In addition to funding, we're supporting the development of ethical and regulatory frameworks. Together with other funders of human infection studies, we've created and committed to a set of ethical principles to guide research and encourage a community of best practice. The aim is to speed up vaccine development and foster a supportive environment for future studies.
We’ve also run workshops on:
- the current environment for human infection studies in the UK and internationally
- how to develop a framework for human infection studies in Malawi
- how to develop a human infection model for schistosomiasis in Uganda.
We 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.
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.
For example, we’ve published a report on the role of vaccines in combatting antimicrobial resistance. We’re also running a funding scheme to support researchers investigating this issue, which gives grants of up to £750,000.
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
Despite ethical concerns about research involving vulnerable populations, there are both scientific and ethical reasons to consider conducting more human infection studies in low- and middle-income countries where neglected diseases are often endemic.
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.
This report, commissioned by Wellcome and produced by Boston Consulting Group, looks at the opportunities and challenges around developing vaccines to combat antimicrobial resistance.
A briefing on the potential for immunisation as a strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance, both globally and in the UK.
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.
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.
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.
Charlie Weller looks at why Lassa fever is hard to detect and difficult to treat.
Flu comes along every winter, but how many people it will infect – and just how poorly they will be – is incredibly difficult to predict.
- Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines Programme
- Gordon Dougan, Expert in Residence
- Alycia Draper, Policy Lead
- Josie Golding, Programme Officer, Epidemic Preparedness
- Zoe Seager, Programme Officer, Evidence for Decision-making
- Shobana Balasingam, Programme Officer, Human Infection Studies
- Cecilia Chui, Project Officer
- Kori Cook, Project Officer
- Peter Hart, Project Officer
- Elizabeth Klemm, Project Officer
- Genevieve Hughes, Policy Officer
- Mark Whittaker, Project Support Officer
- Bethan Hamilton, Joint Initiative Coordinator
- Freya Hopper, Programme Manager
- Sinead Mathias, Team Coordinator
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: email@example.com.
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