British scientists at the highly classified Porton Down laboratory have begun researching a new class of vaccines to combat an unknown future epidemic dubbed “Disease X.”
Scientists at the Porton Down defence technology complex in Wiltshire, England, are developing new vaccinations to combat a number of current animal viruses that are thought to represent a threat of spreading to people and sparking a catastrophe comparable to the Chinese coronavirus.
While scientists have identified numerous potential “high-risk” pathogens, such as avian flu, hantavirus, and monkeypox, which virus will break through is currently unclear, and hence the project’s mandate is to tackle “Disease X.”
The project’s 200 scientists claim to have already created the world’s first vaccine for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic disease, which spreads by tick bites and has a 30% death rate. The vaccine is now being tested on 24 volunteers in the early stages of clinical testing.
In an interview with Sky News, the head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Professor Dame Jenny Harries said: “What we’re trying to do here is ensure that we prepare so that if we have a new Disease X, a new pathogen, we have done as much of that work in advance as possible.
“Hopefully we can prevent it [a pandemic]. But if we can’t and we have to respond, then we have already started developing vaccines and therapeutics to crack it.”
Prof Harries claimed that factors such as urbanization and climate change are making it more likely for pandemics to emerge on a global scale.
“Some of that is because of things like urbanisation where you may get virus jumping into humans [living close-by], as we’ve seen with bird flu.
“And some of it is because of climate change where you get things like ticks and mosquitoes moving to where it was previously cold and is now becoming increasingly warm.
“So this is a growing risk agenda. But it’s one we can use our science actively to prevent human impact.”
According to the professor, the work being done at Porton Down is part of a global effort to produce a novel vaccine within 100 days of a new infection emerging in the public that has the potential to become a pandemic.
“Normally, it would take five or ten years.” “It was around 360 days for COVID,” Harries remarked. “So this is a very lofty goal.” But that is certainly conceivable for some viruses.”