Oxford University plans pandemic hub to prevent 'another catastrophe'

Oxford University bosses plan £500m pandemic hub to prevent ‘another catastrophe’ like Covid from sweeping the world

  • The Pandemic Sciences Centre will produce research to help governments
  • Solutions for worst-case scenarios, such as viruses with high mortality rates 
  • Oxford chief said she hoped new centres would be able to prepare the world 

Oxford University is looking to raise £500million for its new centre aimed solely at tackling any future pandemics.

The Pandemic Sciences Centre will produce research to help governments respond better to outbreaks like Covid-19.

Experts at the university, the birthplace of the AstraZeneca vaccine, say they want to provide solutions for worst-case scenarios, such as a virus with a 50 per cent mortality rate. 

Oxford chief Louise Richardson said she hopes the new centre will ensure ‘the world is never caught unprepared again’. 

Experts at the university, the birthplace of the AstraZeneca vaccine, say they want to provide solutions for worst-case scenarios, such as a virus with a 50 per cent mortality rate

Professor Peter Horby, who will be the centre’s inaugural director, said: ‘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.’

The university will approach philanthropists, corporate partners and governments to seek the £500million required. 

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, 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 per cent – 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.’ He added that the UK needs to ‘invest in sound science now’ to help safeguard public health in ‘generations to come’.

The university will approach philanthropists, corporate partners and governments to seek the £500million required. Pictured, The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford

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.

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

‘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.’ It comes after the government faced criticism for being ‘unprepared’ for a pandemic of this kind, both in terms of science and public policy.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week accused ministers of having ‘no plan’ when they closed the schools for lockdown last year. 

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