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World-leading RNA training academy launches in UK

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A new centre of excellence has been created to boost the UK’s capability to exploit further potential of the ‘game changing’ technology used in COVID-19 vaccines. 

The National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture will focus on RNA technology, the critical force behind the development of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations, and its significant impact and potential beyond COVID-19. 

RNA vaccines can be adapted to treat HIV, cancer and heart disease, with the medicines carrying instructions that tell the body to produce a specific tool that can be used to fight infectious disease.

To prepare for global demand for this exciting emerging technology and to drive the crucial life science skills needed to support this emerging industry, the new academy has been formed in Darlington.

Led in partnership between National Horizons Centre and CPI, a series of courses to upskill technicians and scientists in the development and manufacture of RNA will be available from January 2022.

Dr Jen Vanderhoven, director at the National Horizons Centre, said: “Together with our partners, we pride ourselves on discovering diseases earlier, developing novel treatments and delivering life-saving medicines quicker, safer and more affordably.

“With specialisms in disease-specific research, biomanufacturing and digital analytics and machine learning, we work in an agile way to advance biosciences and healthcare research.

“We care about the future of the industry, which is why we train the workforce in cutting edge technologies, aligning closely with our partners to address the technical and digital skills needs of the sector.”

The new courses will complement the already substantial training offering available at the National Horizons Centre in advanced therapies, vaccine manufacturing and bioprocessing.

Dr Vanderhoven added: “With research, partnerships, and training at our core, the NHC brings together industry, academia, talent and world-class facilities to create real-world impact. 

“The global pandemic has shown the vital role that our sector plays, and it is important that we remain agile and responsive to ensure the UK remains a global life sciences leader.

“We are delighted to partner on this world leading collaboration, deepening our strategic partnership with CPI, to ensure the UK bioindustry has the future skilled workforce it needs.”

Dr Lucy Foley, director of biologics at CPI, said: “The agility of RNA technology makes it a real game changer for therapeutics. Having established itself as a breakthrough technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be prepared with the skills and facilities to support this emerging RNA industry. 

“Both the RNA Centre of Excellence and Training Academy will support the development of new licensed RNA products for the treatment of many different diseases. This is fantastic news for the biopharmaceutical industry, and for human health.”

Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Business and Industry) and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment), said: “This is another excellent example of the UK leading the way to harness some of the best scientific and medical minds in the world to develop life-saving treatments and vaccines.

“Alongside our fantastic COVID-19 vaccination programme – which has prevented more than 105,000 deaths and 24 million infections – medicines such as therapeutics are playing a fundamental role in helping return life to normal and keeping people safe.”

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