Mayor welcomes £5m partnership to prevent flu pandemic – on ‘momentous day’ for Liverpool City Region innovation

Colin Webb, Operations Director, Cashplus

  • 5-year deal announced between Liverpool’s Pandemic Institute and Speke vaccine giant Seqirus
  • Deal highlights city region’s ground-breaking public and private sector innovation partnerships
  • Additional £1.7m funding announced for Liverpool-based infection control consortium iiCON
  • New LCR+ Science and Innovation Audit launched just weeks after Innovation Prospectus showcased city region’s world-leading specialisms

Mayor Steve Rotheram has hailed today as a ‘momentous day’ for Liverpool City Region innovation as three major developments were announced.

A five-year, £5m collaboration was announced between Liverpool’s Pandemic Institute and Speke-based vaccine giant Seqirus aimed at preventing a devastating influenza outbreak.

A further £1.7m government funding deal was also announced for the region’s world-leading iiCON Consortium, which brings together industry, academia and the NHS to accelerate products and innovations linked to infection control.

And a refreshed Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) was launched that highlights the Liverpool City Region’s world-leading specialisms in infection control, materials chemistry and AI solutions, plus emerging strengths in net zero and maritime.

The Mayor joined executives from Seqirus, the Pandemic Institute, and the University of Liverpool to announce the three initiatives at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine before touring the iiCON laboratories.

The announcements come just weeks after the first ever Liverpool City Region Innovation Prospectus was published – showcasing the region’s world-leading innovation strengths and more than £12bn worth of investment opportunities.

The new SIA provides the detailed evidence underpinning the Prospectus and refreshes a version produced in 2017 for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as a means of identifying world-leading innovation outside South East England. Of 25 places to produce an SIA, Liverpool City Region is alone in refreshing theirs, highlighting the city region’s commitment to evidence-backed place-based innovation.

The new document reflects the significant developments in the Liverpool City Region over the last five years and the changing national and international picture.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“The Liverpool City Region is a place where creativity flourishes. We have a longstanding record of developing inventions and innovations that have transformed the world and saved millions of lives in the process.

“But it’s not just about our history; we have a thriving innovation economy that attracted more than £2bn of investment in the years before the pandemic. To deliver real levelling up, the government – whoever might be leading it – needs think bigger than the Golden Triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London.

“We recently launched an innovation prospectus, outlining the breadth of our ‘shovel ready’ projects that could add £20bn to the city region and create 44,000 skilled jobs.

“Today’s news from Westminster might cast some doubt on the future of levelling up – but every challenge also brings opportunity. A new Prime Minister and a new government means the chance for fresh start. We want them to work with us to deliver the investment that our region and the country sorely needs.

“But we are already thinking bigger and braver than national government – our R&D targets are nearly double theirs – but, frustratingly, we can’t deliver on this without their support. Our region has demonstrated time and time again that when we are given the right support, we are more than capable of delivering an even greater return to the Treasury. As today’s announcements show, areas like ours are ripe for investment. This should be a no brainer for them!”

About the Pandemic Institute and CSL’s Seqirus collaboration:

Under the £5m partnership announced today, Seqirus and the University of Liverpool Pandemic Institute will participate in research and knowledge generation around the threat of influenza and the development of innovative approaches to pandemic preparedness and response.

Seqirus will provide financial support, research materials and scientific and technical expertise for five years aimed at developing scientific and medical advances in seasonal and pandemic flu prevention.

Seqirus currently employs more than 800 people at the UK’s largest influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Speke.

Speaking of the new collaboration, Sharon McHale, Vice President, Global Head of Policy, Advocacy & Government Affairs at Seqirus said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the incontrovertible value of research and scientific partnership to support pandemic response. The University of Liverpool is renowned internationally for research excellence and can boast of over a century of discovery and translational research in infectious diseases, a field in which it is a leader. I can think of no better partner for the next step towards pandemic preparedness. It makes absolute sense for us to build this new partnership for the next step towards pandemic preparedness from the strong base we already have within Liverpool.”

Professor Tom Solomon, Director of the Pandemic Institute, said:

“The Pandemic Institute is committed to helping the world prevent, prepare, and respond more effectively to pandemics. With a breadth of word-leading clinical, academic, public health and data-driven expertise, we’re keen to leverage these synergies in our collaboration with Seqirus to enhance influenza protection and pandemic response. We’re delighted that our founding partner, University of Liverpool, has taken the lead on this partnership with Seqirus and we look forward to bringing our combined intelligence and resources together to generate scientific excellence with societal impact for all.”

Seqirus has had a long history of investment in Liverpool dating back to 1943 and its Speke site produces more than 50m doses of seasonal influenza vaccine each year. It is also a key part of the company’s response strategy for a potential influenza pandemic, contracted to make 200 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccines when it is needed.

Dr Raja Rajaram, Head of Seqirus Global Medical Strategy said:

“Seqirus’ mission is committed to protecting public health through partnerships such as this academic collaboration with the Pandemic Institute, through the University of Liverpool, which will allow us to expand our knowledge base through evidence generation and access breakthrough scientific and technological advancements. This moment is doubly exciting for the value it will bring to both of our organisations and especially our scientific teams based in the UK.”

The Pandemic Institute is a global organisation created to prepare the world for future pandemics. Launched in 2021, the Institute is formed of seven founding partners: The University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust, and Knowledge Quarter Liverpool.

About Liverpool City Region’s refreshed SIA:

The BEIS-commissioned Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) published in September 2017 was a seminal piece of work for prioritising the Liverpool City Region’s distinctive world-leading assets and capabilities to drive innovation. It has also informed all subsequent City Region economic strategies.

Five years on, there was a clear need to update the SIA to account for shifts in global challenges and national policies and priorities, plus very significant developments in innovation in Liverpool City Region (LCR) post-2017.

The refreshed SIA reviews socio-economic data since 2017, assesses progress in LCR’s established world-leading capabilities in infection prevention & control, materials chemistry, and AI Solutions & emerging technologies. It also highlights emerging strengths in net zero and maritime and recommends future activity.

Its purpose is to inform innovation policy, strategy and funding decisions and support lobbying for greater devolution, investment and levelling up. That’s all towards delivery of the LCR’s headline target to invest 5% of GVA per annum in R&D by 2030.

About the iiCON funding:

The outstanding results being achieved by the Infection Innovation Consortium – iiCON – have been acknowledged with £1.7 million of additional funding from Research England.

Led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the iiCON consortium partners, which include Unilever, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, the University of Liverpool, Evotec, and Infex Therapeutics are working on a series of ambitious programmes to accelerate the development of new products and innovations in infection control.

In the 18 months since its launch, iiCON has already enabled 12 consumer products to get to market, helped secure £200 million of funding for innovation related to infection control and supported the creation of 176 jobs related to the sector.

The extra funding is set to generate a further £40 million of direct investment in a format that moves the infection R&D portfolio in Liverpool City Region closer to £4 billion rather than the current £3 billion 2030 target.

iiCON will now widen its development pipeline, which currently features 15 infection control products, whilst extending its reach with industry partners.

Professor Janet Hemingway, director of the iiCON Consortium said:

“The funding has been awarded because iiCON is progressing at hypersonic speed and we’re ready to expand our reach into the growing R&D ecosystem in Liverpool City Region.  In the 18 months since the iiCON launch we have made remarkable progress. That includes enabling 12 consumer products to get to market – with some 5 billion units of these products reaching people around the world.  These include vaccines, innovations in diagnostics and other infection control products such as mouthwashes and air purifiers. We have a further 15 products in the development pipeline and have also helped secure £200 million of funding for science, whilst working with more than 50 industry partners, such as CN Bio, Unilever, Mologic, Sanofi, Pfizer, Newcells Biotech and Sentinel.

“The Treasury recognises that our model, bringing together industry, academia, and the NHS in a concerted effort to accelerate the discovery and development of new treatments and preventative products for infectious diseases is securing huge results.  That we are doing this in the North and Liverpool specifically is very much an example of ‘Levelling Up’ in action as we are creating jobs and helping secure inward investment along the way.”

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