Oxford University to launch future pandemics science centre

Academic bosses say new centre will ensure 'world is never caught unprepared again'

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The University of Oxford will develop a new research centre dedicated to preparing for future pandemics and disease outbreaks.

The Pandemic Sciences Centre, which will include core institutes, will bring together interdisciplinary knowledge from academia, industry and public health bodies.

The university says the coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for a more collaborative approach to preparedness.

The university, said the centre's mission was to "ensure that the world is better equipped to create global and equitable science-driven solutions to prepare for, identify and counter future pandemic threats".

It will focus its efforts on three core areas, the first of which will be gathering ''real-time" data on pathogens and patients, and making this information globally accessible.

It will aim to "translate research into real-world solutions" through digital tools, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

And it hopes to increase public trust in pandemic work by "identifying ways to strengthen societal and political engagement".

The university is looking to raise £500 million ($710.1m) from philanthropists, governments and global corporations to help establish the new centre.

Prof Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the university, said the Pandemic Sciences Centre would be "uniquely capable" of addressing the threats from emerging infectious diseases.

"It would be easy to ignore just how much more serious a pandemic could have been this time around," Prof Bell said.

"Other highly pathogenic viruses carry mortalities of 35 to 50 per cent. Imagine if we had a pandemic where one in three infected people died.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of nedicine at the university, says the new centre will help global preparedness. University of Oxford
Sir John Bell, regius professor of nedicine at the university, says the new centre will help global preparedness. University of Oxford

"By investing in sound science now, we can help to safeguard our resilience, global economic stability and health security for generations to come.

"We are ready to take our vision to build on these foundations to ensure society is better prepared and agile in its response to future threats."

Louise Richardson, vice chancellor of the university, said: "The recent pandemic has demonstrated the unique contributions research universities like Oxford can make to pandemic preparedness.

"We are building on decades of medical research on infectious disease and data science, we have long-standing international partnerships and we have the ability to act and to adapt quickly.

"When aligned with industry and with public health bodies, we can ensure that the world is never caught unprepared again.’"