In the shadow of the recent global Covid-19 pandemic, scientists in the United Kingdom are already taking proactive steps to shield humanity from the next viral threat.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the new Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) is working to develop “life-saving new vaccines” to combat a number of illnesses, including the mysteriously-labeled “Disease X.”
“Preparing to tackle ‘Disease X’,” the agency said in a press release. “VDEC scientists have developed immunological assays or tests through which they can measure the effectiveness of vaccines against bacterial infections. These assays are being evaluated for use to combat similar, more threatening pathogens with a pandemic potential.”
The unknown potential pandemic has mobilized over 200 scientists at the government’s high-security Porton Down laboratory complex in Wiltshire, according to Sky News. Their mission is to anticipate and deter the next global health emergency before it even begins.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, the head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), recently told Sky News, “What we’re trying to do here is ensure that we prepare… if we have a new Disease X, a new pathogen, we have done as much of that work in advance as possible.”
The original focus of VDEC was to test the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid-19 variants. Now, the center’s mandate has broadened, with scientists diligently monitoring high-risk pathogens, including those responsible for bird flu, monkeypox and hantavirus.
A significant milestone achieved by the scientists is the development of the world’s first vaccine against the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. As a tick-borne disease with a daunting 30% fatality rate, its appearance in Europe has raised concerns due to reports of increasing global temperatures.
Among the top health concerns in the UK is bird flu. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds disclosed that a virulent H5N1 strain has tragically claimed the lives of over 30,000 seabirds around the UK this summer.
In an effort to stay ahead of such threats, the UKHSA has initiated monitoring of individuals in close proximity to birds. Their ultimate goal is to develop a potent vaccine within an impressive 100 days of identifying a new pathogenic threat, according to The Guardian.
Harries compared this ambition to previous vaccine timelines, noting, “Historically, that would be unheard of. It would normally take five or 10 years. For COVID it was around 360 days. So this is a really high ambition. But for some viruses, it is definitely possible.”
This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.