The unprecented large-scale global rollout of vaccines during the Covid pandemic highlighted the prevailing issue of substandard and falsified (SF) medicines. The high demand of vaccines and shortage, especially in some low-and middle income countries, has resulted in falsification by criminals. Substandard vaccines are where the cold chain has not been maintained during distribution, storage and handling and as a result the vaccine is degraded. There are currently no devices to detect SF vaccines in supply chains.
Prof. Nicole Zitzmann and members of her team are working with the Medicines Quality Research Group (within the Nuffield Department of Medicine), the Department of Chemistry and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) of UKRI on the Vaccine Identity Evaluation (VIE) project. The VIE team are evaluating devices and developing protocols for screening SF vaccines in supply chains which includes repurposing of existing technologies as well as exploring the development of additional novel techniques. In the Zitzmann lab, Dr Bevin Gangadharan, Dr Tehmina Bharucha, Yohan Arman and former lab member Laura Gomez have been evaluating the utility of mass spectrometry and several low-cost devices.
The VIE team also held a multidisciplinary hybrid meeting at Keble College to discuss these devices to detect SF vaccines. They were joined by 60 colleagues from 11 countries including vaccine and device manufacturers, medicines regulators, virologists, chemists, physicists, forensic scientists, data scientists, police and investigators, sociologists and translational research experts. Pilot data were discussed and much progress made on future collaborative plans with a vision to bring about a step change in our ability to detect SF vaccines. The diverse devices were demonstrated in the Zitzmann lab, the Department of Chemistry and the RAL.
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