IChemE welcomes COVID-19 vaccine development and calls for engineering focus to meet targets

Published:  13 November, 2020

Experts from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)’s COVID-19 Response Team have welcomed the early results announced regarding the world's first effective coronavirus vaccine developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech. Acknowledging the significant progress achieved by interdisciplinary teams, IChemE congratulates all those involved for making a preventative solution to control the pandemic a reality.

There are still many questions to be answered including the logistics of manufacturing, transportation and storage, but as these are addressed, the IChemE team is now calling on the government and public health organisations to focus on the complex engineering required behind the scenes to be able to deliver the number of courses of the vaccine required.

The development, scale-up and manufacture of vaccines requires the expert knowledge of chemical engineers, biochemical engineers and process engineers. Responsible for transferring small scale research products to large scale manufacture, chemical engineers devise processes that consistently deliver consistent and pure products, design effective production systems and advise on optimum technologies to achieve efficient production. As well as engineers and scientists, clinicians, logistics specialists and project managers will all be critical to the success of the vaccine.

Working in partnership with the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering UK Affiliate (ISPE UK), IChemE has brought together an expert team of engineers with a vast amount of experience in the industrial manufacture of vaccines.

Dr Peter Dodd, member of the IChemE COVID-19 Response Team and ISPE UK COVID-19 Response Project Manager, said:

“This positive news must not take our eyes off the broad spectrum of actions needed to combat COVID-19 at this critical stage. It is vital that we continue to focus on our own individual behaviours, the NHS frontline, therapeutics, an effective isolate system and other vaccine candidates.

“This particular vaccine requires an unusually cold and widespread distribution chain. The desirability to manufacture and implement this vaccine in an unprecedented timescale, whilst ensuring its safe and effective use, will require the expert involvement of many scientists, engineers and medics. We wish them well whilst strongly recommending that all other options continue to be investigated. Though this week’s announcement is extremely welcome, we must continue to focus on data and practical implementation, not just the press release.”

To contact the IChemE COVID-19 Response Team please email covid@icheme.org.

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