Top London university forms start-up to boost vaccine hunt

Push to make potential coronavirus vaccine more affordable follows Global Vaccine Summit pledges

FILE PHOTO: A scientist examines COVID-19 infected cells during research for a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a laboratory of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo
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Imperial College London is setting up a new enterprise to distribute a potential Covid-19 vaccine at a lower price.

The British university, together with partner Morningside Ventures, will waive royalties and charge only “modest, cost-plus prices” to sustain the enterprise’s work, it said on Sunday.

The enterprise will be called VacEquity Global Health.

Another company, VaXEquity, is also being launched to accelerate production of the vaccine.

“These new enterprises are the most effective way for us to deliver Covid-19 vaccines quickly, cheaply and internationally, while preparing for future pandemics,” said Professor Robin Shattock, head of infection and immunity at Imperial and co-founder of the two companies.

Imperial College says it has received more than £40 million (Dh186.3m/$50.7m) of public money to develop the coronavirus vaccine, and £5m from donors.

The vaccine is to enter a new phase of human trials on June 15.

Addressing the Global Vaccine Summit last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a “people’s vaccine”.

Leaders from 50 countries met in London and raised $8.8bn in additional funds at a pledging conference organised by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on Thursday.

At the meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a "new era of global health co-operation" to "unite humanity in the fight against disease", particularly in the poorest countries.

Since it began spreading in China late last year, the coronavirus has infected nearly 7 million people, killed more than 400,000 and wreaked havoc on the global economy by forcing millions to stay inside their homes.