The Serum Institute of India (SII) has committed £50 million ($66.2 million) to the University of Oxford to fund the construction of the Poonawalla Vaccines Research Building.
According to Oxford University, the investment was made through the Indian company’s Serum Life Sciences unit.
On the University’s Old Road Campus, the Poonawalla Vaccines Research Building will be built next to the recently announced Oxford University Pandemic Sciences Centre. The buildings will share infrastructure and support facilities for scientific research and academic instruction, forming a unique hub that will help to improve global pandemic preparedness and response.
Vaccinology will be the main focus of the study in the Poonawalla Building. This new building will house approximately 300 research experts and will serve as the focal point and scale for the university’s key vaccine development programs, enabling for a speedy, productive, and timely expansion of this rapidly expanding translational field.
The gift extends and strengthens the Serum Institute of India’s long-standing collaboration with Oxford University. The Jenner Center, the world’s leading academic vaccine institute named after Edward Jenner, the originator of vaccination, will have its headquarters and main laboratory space in the Poonawalla Building. The most recent collaboration between the Serum Institute and the Jenner Institute resulted in the rapid development and global roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Serum Institute-Jenner Institute agreements also include a deal for Serum Institute to manufacture and develop the Jenner Institute’s promising R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine, which is now in Phase III trials, with a focus on nations with high malaria loads.
‘The University of Oxford has longstanding ties with the Poonawalla family, and we were delighted to confer an honorary degree on Cyrus Poonawalla in Summer 2019 in recognition of his extraordinary work manufacturing inexpensive vaccines for the developing world,’ said Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. I am overjoyed that we will be able to continue working on vaccinations, which have shown to be so important to world health, thanks to this kind gift. We’ll also make sure we’re never caught off guard by a worldwide pandemic again.’
SII was created in 1966 in Pune, Western India, by Cyrus Poonawalla, the son of a horse breeder and, according to Forbes, India’s fifth-richest person. Cyrus received an honorary degree from Oxford University in 2019. His son Adar Poonawalla, whose wife Natasha Poonawalla is the CEO of Serum Life Sciences, now runs the company.