Pictured above: Construction of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) last autumn.
The arrival of G7 health ministers to Oxford this week (Thursday 3 June) will shine a spotlight on Oxfordshire’s considerable achievements in the life sciences sector – and, according to the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership, there couldn’t be a better location globally for this summit to be held.
“Oxfordshire’s global role in the scientific response to the Covid-19 pandemic has further strengthened our reputation for establishing and attracting world-leading life sciences businesses and innovators,” says Ahmed Goga, Director of Strategy at the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP).
Over the past 12 months, Oxfordshire has led the worldwide fight against Covid-19 – but OxLEP point out that this is underpinned by decades of pioneering world-class, innovation-led work in life sciences, ensuring that the county was perfectly positioned to respond to the global challenge posed by the Coronavirus.
OxLEP also add that it further demonstrates that the county can also lead the way in addressing many future health-related issues that the world will likely face.
Ahmed Goga says: “The past 12 to 18 months have demonstrated Oxfordshire’s ability to play a major role in a globally significant sector.
“We see both the G7 summit and the coming months as an opportunity to engage with key officials and businesses around the globe to showcase the world-leading capabilities that exist here, attracting talent to the county as we progress with our vision for Oxfordshire to become a top-three global innovation ecosystem by 2040.”
Last year, the county’s life sciences experts mobilised rapidly in-light of Coronavirus – this included developing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and discovering, through the large-scale RECOVERY trial, that dexamethasone could cut Covid-19 deaths by up to a third.
Many other life sciences organisations in a range of associated disciplines, from medical devices to digital health platforms, also contributed.
Oxfordshire’s long-held expertise in vaccinology, immunology, medical research – together with its science community’s collaborative, innovative and pioneering approach – has been a significant factor in attracting life sciences companies to the area.
Some of the most prominent companies being Oxford Nanopore and Immunocore, the top two UK life sciences sector businesses by total funding received – £650m and £281m respectively.
Oxford Biomedica, another notable spin-out from the University of Oxford, specialises in the development and commercialisation of innovative gene-based medicines.
Many early-stage, high-potential medical science companies can develop their ideas at specialist facilities such as the BioEscalator at Headington – which provides lab space and support – or new laboratories recently-built at the Wood Centre for Innovation, supported by government funding obtained by OxLEP, who have secured over £660m-worth of investment for Oxfordshire since its creation.
Among the entrepreneurial organisations working to tackle global health issues that have been attracted to the Bioescalator, supported by OxLEP, is Huntano Diagnostics.
Huntano Diagnostics is developing a platform for the rapid diagnosis, tracking and outbreak spread prediction of emerging and dangerous pathogens (EDP) in Africa, such as those that cause Ebola virus disease and Lassa fever.
A recent advance in global public health has come from a team led by Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute and professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, which has developed the first malaria vaccine to reach the World Health Organisation’s goal of at least 75% efficacy.
This represents a significant breakthrough in a disease that kills more than 400,000 people a year.
The UK’s first Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), currently under construction at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, will also accelerate the development of new and innovative vaccines to combat some of the world’s most prevalent diseases, from discovery to licensed product.
OxLEP’s Director of Strategy says that – by holding the G7 event in Oxford – it rubberstamps the science-led expertise that exists right across Oxfordshire’s innovation ecosystem.
Ahmed Goga added: “Such examples show why the world’s most-talented scientists and health entrepreneurs continue to be attracted to Oxfordshire’s life sciences and healthcare sector which now employs 25,000 people.
“There is no better location for this summit to be held. As a county, we welcome the G7 health ministers and the opportunity to highlight the investments and progress that has been made by this prominent sector for Oxfordshire, which has rightly described by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock as being at the ‘heart’ of British life sciences.”