India’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan joins UK-led team to better plan for future pandemics

India’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan joins UK-led team to better plan for future pandemics

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO), is among a worldwide team of 20 experts who make up a new UK-led Pandemic Preparedness Partnership (PPP), which met this week as part of global efforts to save lives from future diseases.

The PPP is chaired by UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and has the remit to report to world leaders at June’s UK-hosted G7 Summit in Cornwall. The public-private partnership brings together industry, international organisations and leading experts to provide recommendations for delivering ambitious targets to more quickly develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics through greater global cooperation on research and development, manufacturing, clinical trials and data-sharing.

Time saving

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The Covid pandemic has shaken the world but united us in our determination to ensure no disease has such an impact in the future.

“As G7 President, the UK is determined to work with our partners to build back better from coronavirus and strengthen global preparedness for future pandemics. This new expert group will drive our efforts in the years ahead to protect people everywhere from new diseases and to save lives.”

The PPP will advise the UK G7 Presidency on how to meet a target of cutting down the time to develop and deploy high quality vaccines for new diseases from 300 to 100 days, backed by additional funding of £16 million to support the work of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) on global vaccine supply.

“Covid-19 has shown us that it’s possible to develop and deploy high-quality vaccines much faster than previously imagined. We have brought together the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership to see whether this can be accelerated even further and applied to the development of medicines and diagnostic tests,” said PPP chair Patrick Vallance.

“The group of experts from across the globe will advise the UK G7 Presidency as to how we can accelerate and scale up the development of effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to save lives from future diseases with pandemic potential and I look forward to progressing such vital work,” he said.

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Critical research

The additional funding will go towards global vaccine manufacturing capacity and critical research and development to rapidly respond to the threat of new strains, supporting the development of new variant-specific vaccines.

Melinda Gates, philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “The global response to Covid-19 has proved that we are most successful when we bring together scientists, businesses, governments, and collective action through multilateral institutions.

“This partnership will enable G7 governments to create a roadmap for building a safe, secure, and equitable future for everyone.”

The 20 members of the PPP will be joined by scientific advisers from G7 partners, who will play a key role in shaping the recommendations into an actionable roadmap over the next two months through a series of meetings ahead of the June Leader's Summit.

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