Oxford University is aiming to raise £500m ($710m) from philanthropists, governments and corporate partners as it plans to launch a new Pandemic Sciences Centre for global research collaboration.
The centre will unite a range of academic disciplines and sectors, including infectious diseases, vaccinology, immunology, structural biology, diagnostics, drug discovery, clinical trials, data science, public health, and social and political sciences.
It aims to tackle complex problems and respond to pandemic threats at any time. The centre will also look to better understand the threat posed by pathogens in circulation and find ways to limit the spread of infectious disease.
The Pandemic Sciences Centre, which will include a number of core institutes, will pull together the global research collaborations that the University of Oxford has developed over more than forty years.
The university said that a key lesson from the coronavirus pandemic was “the need for partnership between academic excellence, industry and public health organisations”.
Last year Oxford University developed a COVID-19 vaccine with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZN.L).
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“The recent pandemic has demonstrated the unique contributions research universities like Oxford can make to pandemic preparedness,” Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, said.
“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.”
Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford university highlighted how much more serious the coronavirus pandemic could have been.
He said: “It would be easy to ignore just how much more serious a pandemic could have been this time around - other highly pathogenic viruses carry mortalities of 35-50% - imagine if we had a pandemic where one in three infected people died.
“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.”
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford, who has worked on many global health threats, will be the centre’s inaugural director.
He has worked on many global health threats including SARS-1, bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Ebola, Lassa fever, and plague.
Horby said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that spectacular advances are possible through an alliance of science, the public sector and industry - creating digital disease control tools, diagnostic tests, and life-saving treatments and vaccines at unprecedented speed. But it should not take a pandemic to make this happen.
“This level of innovation and multi-sectoral collaboration must be applied, day in and day out, to prevent another catastrophe like COVID-19.'
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