Multi-million pound funding boost for Britain's search for Covid-19 vaccine

BRITAIN’S search for a Covid vaccine will be turbocharged with a multi-million pound funding boost, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said tonight.

Ministers last night unveiled a further 21 projects which will get a slice of a £14million to help find a way out of the deadly pandemic.

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And they unveiled a new, national Covid hit-squad of boffins to lead the mission to find a vaccine and cure.

In total £25million has been revealed to try and find the way out of the crisis.

Mr Sharma said tonight the Government was "betting big" to try and make sure they were the first to get there.

And he vowed to ramp up research and preparations "so that we are ready to manufacturer by the millions" as soon as one is found.

The new taskforce will be led by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan van Tam.

The team will tear up red tape and get cash quickly to the nation’s army of researchers so a vaccine can be found and scaled up to mass quantities quickly.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’re doing everything possible to save lives and beat this disease, and that includes working flat out with businesses, researchers and industry to find a vaccine as quickly as possible.

“The UK is world-leading in developing vaccines. We are the biggest contributor to the global effort – and preparing to ensure we can manufacture vaccines here at home as soon as practically possible.”

Among those getting extra cash is an Oxford University team trialing the use of an anti malaria drug as treatment for Covid-19.

GP surgeries across the UK are being urged to take part in the ground-breaking trial to work out if the drug can help speed up recovery in the sick.

Imperial College London will get extra cash for testing a vaccine against coronavirus that aims for the body to produce more protective antibodies.

While Public Health is getting funding to study how the virus jumps from person to person, and clings on to fabrics for hours.

However, this evening Patrick Vallance warned the public that a vaccine was still far off.

He said that "each single project does not have a high [chance] of success".

"Though everyone goes out with great enthusiasm its never the case that you've got a vaccine you're sure is going to work," he added.

All of them will have to be properly tested and clinical trials done to make sure that it is safe to use, he stressed.

And he also told people that just because they haven't seen Covid cases in their area, it didn't mean they could afford to relax.

"When we look right the way across the country there is a little bit of unevenness, particular in some areas where there haven't been many cases," he said.

"I urge everybody in every area to apply the social distancing in place."

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “The research community’s response to the Covid-19 crisis has been outstanding.

“In a matter of weeks, researchers have formed projects to develop potential vaccines, repurpose existing drugs and explore the potential for new medicines, and to examine how the virus is transmitted and causes wide variation in symptoms.

“Pre-clinical trials of vaccines and clinical trials of drugs are already underway.

“The pace at which this work has been carried out is tribute to the UK’s world-class research base and its dedication to the fight against this disease.”

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