Oxford University launches centre to prepare world for future pandemic threats

Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom; Shutterstock ID 714075073; Purchase Order: -
The Bodleian Library at Oxford University (Shutterstock)

A centre of global research collaboration is being launched by the University of Oxford to ensure that the world is prepared for future pandemic threats.

The Pandemic Sciences Centre aims to provide science-driven solutions that can tackle complex problems and respond to possible outbreaks at any time.

It will build on the strong collaborations developed rapidly across the globe between academia, industry and public health bodies during the pandemic.

The University of Oxford’s vice-chancellor Louise Richardson said she hopes the new centre will ensure that ‘the world is never caught unprepared again’.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, 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.

‘The University of Oxford is uniquely capable of leading a global step change in how we respond to the threat of emerging infections.’

Prof Bell added: ‘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.’

Within Oxford, the centre will draw together academics and experts from across its research community – including from infectious diseases, vaccinology, immunology, structural biology, diagnostics, drug discovery, clinical trials, data science, public health, and social and political sciences.

Staff at Oxford University Clinical BioManufacturing Facility work on manufacturing the first batch of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine to be used in the Phase I clinical trial hand out image
Staff at Oxford University’s Clinical BioManufacturing Facility work on manufacturing the first batch of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (Shutterstock)

Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford, who has worked on many global health threats, will be the centre’s inaugural director.

Prof 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.’

Ms Richardson said: ‘The recent pandemic has demonstrated the unique contributions research universities like Oxford can make to pandemic preparedness.

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Oxford University is prepping to fight the next pandemic (Credits: Shutterstock / Pajor Pawel)

‘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.’

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