The centre, which is only the second to launch to date and the first outside the US, will be led by Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at Bristol, Director of the Bristol Vaccine Centre at Bristol Medical School and lead of Bristol UNCOVER (Bristol COVID Emergency Research Group).
Using an initial investment of £4.6 million from Pfizer, the centre will conduct real-world population-based surveillance studies in hospitals and the community to identify and measure the burden of specific vaccine-preventable infectious diseases affecting adults, including the elderly, as well as children. Research will also be undertaken to support the design, development and use of next-generation vaccines.
At the launch, the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP met virologists, Dr Andrew Davidson and Dr David Matthews, and epigenetic epidemiologist, Professor Caroline Relton.
At the start of the pandemic, Drs Davidson and Matthews were the only team in a UK university working with “live” human coronaviruses of concern and were the first UK team to publish research using the live human SARS-CoV-2 virus in a controlled lab just five weeks after receiving the virus from Public Health England.
Dr Luis Jodar, Senior Vaccine President and Chief Medical Officer for Vaccines at Pfizer, said: “Through Pfizer’s strategically located centres of excellence and the collaboration with local academic institutions, which have world-class expertise, we aim to better define and understand global disease burden in adults and vaccine effectiveness against a broad number of infectious diseases of public health importance”.
“Well-conducted clinical population-based epidemiological research studies in adults is a critical component to better understanding the role that direct and potentially indirect effects of vaccination may have in reducing the impact and consequences of infectious diseases – insights which are perhaps more valuable than ever against the backdrop of this terrible pandemic.
[From left to right] The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP; Dr Catherine Hyams, University of Bristol; Ben Osborn, Managing Director, Pfizer UK and Professor Adam Finn, University of Bristol. Photo credit: Julian James
“We’re proud to have partnered with the University of Bristol to open Pfizer’s first centre of epidemiological excellence outside of the US. The findings from research already underway at this centre will provide supporting evidence to inform recommendations on the use of vaccines worldwide. This investment is also a demonstration of Pfizer’s ongoing commitment to the UK’s thriving life sciences sector.”
Professor Adam Finn, Lead of the Pfizer Centre of Excellence for Epidemiology of Vaccine-preventable Diseases, said: “Global research efforts are needed to help us better define and understand vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccine effectiveness. I am immensely proud to be part of this new partnership at a time when it has never been more critical for industry and academia to work together to overcome the plight of infectious diseases.”
Initially, the centre will conduct several population-based surveillance studies of pneumococcal disease, Clostridium difficile and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). AvonCAP (community acquired pneumonia), an ongoing surveillance project, records detailed information on every adult patient admitted to Bristol’s two large NHS hospitals with symptoms, signs and/or X-ray evidence of acute disease in the lungs.