UCL's VaxHub Counsels UN on Vaccine Tech Transfers

University College London

A new science policy briefing on vaccine technology transfers to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), written by UCL researchers, informed discussions at the United Nations.

New vaccine hub created at UCL

The policy brief, co-authored by researchers from UCL STEaPP and UCL Biochemical Engineering, informed discussions on more effective funding and capacity for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-related research and innovation, particularly in the Global South, at the 9th UN Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the SDGs.

Technology transfer is the movement of data, designs, inventions, materials, software, technical knowledge from one organisation to another. The technology transfer process is guided by the policies, procedures and values of each organisation involved in the process.

The science policy briefing was produced as part of the work of VaxHub, an academic collaboration led by UCL Biochemical Engineering and the University of Oxford. Building on the success of the 2018-2023 Vax-Hub, two new vaccine hubs were awarded research funding in 2023: the Manufacturing Research Hub for a Sustainable Future (VaxHub Sustainable) and the Vaccines Manufacturing Hub for LMICs (VaxHub Global).

The briefing provides insights into the barriers, enablers and potential policy solutions related to bringing innovative vaccine solutions to, and building local manufacturing capacity, in LMICs.

Vaccines play a key role in achieving global health security, equity and in driving progress towards the SDGs. Unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines resulted in a higher proportional death toll and prolonged the pandemic in LMICs.

Currently the vaccine manufacturing and distribution market is highly concentrated in a few geographical regions. Africa, for example, produces less than 1% of the vaccines administered on the African continent.

The policy brief focuses on vaccine technology transfers as a key element of building vaccine manufacturing capacity in LMICs, exploring the broader systemic barriers and enablers related to successful technology transfers, including the importance of knowledge systems and global collaboration.

Professor Martina Micheletti, who is the Co-Director of both VaxHub Global and VaxHub Sustainable from UCL Biochemical Engineering, said: "We are delighted that VaxHub's policy work contributed to the UN 2024 STI Forum discussions on global research cooperation and funding. Much of the Vax-Hub Global research is focussed on developing vaccine technologies which are easily transferable to LMICs but, in order for our research to have the desired impact, policy solutions that enable successful technology transfers to LMICs need to be carefully considered and implemented."

VaxHub Global researchers work across a broad range of vaccine types, including mRNA, virus-like particles (VLPs), viral vectored and conjugate vaccines, as well as new delivery methods, with the aim to help address some of the key challenges encountered by LMICs in vaccine development, manufacture and delivery.

One of the groundbreaking innovative delivery technologies that VaxHub Global researchers are working on is microneedle array patches (MAPs), which is an effective and pain-free method of delivering vaccines through the skin and which doesn't require a cold chain for transport and storage, a key infrastructure challenge in LMICs.

The publication of this policy brief is particularly timely given the ongoing international negotiations that recently took place at the World Health Assembly to develop the world's first pandemic accord. The accord highlights the importance of achieving more equitable distribution of vaccines and the key role of technology transfers for building capacity in developing countries. Findings and recommendations from the brief will also provide evidence-based perspectives to the July High-level Political Forum (HLPF), which is the main UN platform on sustainable development, and to the UN Summit of the Future taking place in September.

The policy brief as published on the UN STI Forum website can be found here.

A longer version of the policy brief, which includes more details about the interview findings that informed the brief, can be found here.



  • Credit: UCL

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