Scottish coronavirus vaccine scientist praises UK Government’s efforts to tackle virus

The Scottish scientist at the forefront of efforts to develop a lifesaving coronavirus vaccine has hailed the UK Government’s £210 million funding boost to speeding its creation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK aid funding at a virtual summit of G20 leaders last Thursday – the day before he was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The UK is now the leading contributor to the international fund to find a coronavirus vaccine and Dr Kate Broderick says that it is a significant step in the global effort to rolling out a vaccine.

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Fife-born Dr Broderick’s team at US-based pharmaceutical giant Inovio, in San Diego, California is working around the clock to have a DNA vaccine ready by December.

The 42-year-old Glasgow University graduate said: “I am really proud that the UK Government has made this absolutely phenomenal gesture and I think that really says a lot about how seriously Boris Johnson is taking the pandemic.

“The fact that the UK Government has made such a generous donation will hopefully encourage other countries to follow their lead.

“This is a lesson to everybody globally that governments can be leaders in providing support for this work, and frankly this is crucial, because if we don’t have the funding behind it, it is just going to slow down the process of getting these vaccines out there.

“Tragically, there are so many people dying around the world every day from coronavirus, so every day counts.

“The reality is that vaccine development costs money and it takes time, but you can do it faster if you have more funding - so to get such a significant investment from the UK can make a genuine difference to the timeline for this.

“Every investment helps bring forward the date that the vaccine is ready and can save countless lives.”

The total amount of UK aid spent fighting coronavirus now stands at £544 million.

The UK, along with many other countries, is channelling funding to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI has announced that it requires $2 billion additional funding from international governments to develop the crucial vaccine.

If all G20 governments pledged $10m funding this shortfall would be met instantly, and the UK has already gone beyond its share by committing £250m to CEPI to date.

Mum-of-two Dr Broderick, originally from Dunfermline, Fife, revealed her own family’s fears are helping drive her relentless pursuit of developing a viable coronavirus DNA vaccine as quickly as possible.

She explained: “My husband Steve is immune compromised, so we have to be uber careful. It means that the kids are very much aware about my work. They know why mummy’s not around as much as I’d want to be right now.

“What worries me is that I don’t think we understand the anxiety this crisis is causing for kids all over the world, especially in families with loved ones who have underlying health issues.

“My family are all in Scotland and my sister’s actually a nurse for the NHS at the Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow and she’s certainly hoping we can help get that vaccine out there as soon as possible.

“I must admit that I got quite emotional watching all the people clapping on Twitter for the NHS. I think the NHS is woven into our being in the UK and I thought it was such a lovely gesture that medical staff got that show of public support.

“My sister has been very worried going onto the wards. She’s been treating several positive patients and she is genuinely worried about coming home at night and was saying that she has been trying to get out of her uniform in the back garden before stepping into the house.”

Dr Broderick added: “I must admit I woke up on Friday morning and the first thing that I saw on my phone was that Boris Johnson had tested positive.

“It is shocking, but it doesn’t surprise me, because the number of people infected are probably a lot higher than the reported figures and I think this just shows that anyone can be tested positive.

“This virus is indiscriminate so it doesn’t matter who you are, you can catch it. Hopefully it will be a reality check to everyone that we all have a role to play to take the social distancing more seriously to stop the spread.”

Dr Broderick says that her team are now in the position to start human clinical testing next month – but wants more countries to follow the UK’s lead to support the development of life-saving vaccines as soon as possible.

Inovio are working towards having a million doses of vaccine ready by December for further trials or for emergency use, as determined by the regulatory authorities.

Dr Broderick said: “That is achievable, of course with the appropriate regulatory guidance.

“Using the data that we generate from human clinical testing next month, we will go to regulatory authorities and hope to demonstrate that the vaccine’s safe, it does what we want it to do, and that we would like to move forward to testing this vaccine on people who really need it.

“In my mind that is your frontline medical staff who are frankly risking their lives doing their jobs at the moment. We need to get this vaccine to the people who need it the most.

“In parallel to that, we are working with large scale manufacturers all over the globe to see how fast we can ramp up that production.

“A million doses by December is a great start, but we need investment to ramp this up to tens or hundreds of millions of doses to protect all the world’s most vulnerable people as soon as possible.”

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This UK Government support will be vital in efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine and treatments, which will ultimately help stop its spread around the world.

“We are backing experts, including in the UK, to find solutions as quickly as possible to this pandemic. This will ultimately help us to save lives in this country.”

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