Highlight Notice in novel tools and technologies for vaccinology


Vaccine research forms a key part of BBSRC’s and MRC’s portfolios to develop tools and technologies for vaccine development, identify new antigens for specific diseases and to take new vaccines through all stages of clinical development for human disease, and up to pre-clinical for animal diseases. Complementary to this, manufacturing research, including the development of new biomanufacturing processes, forms a key part of the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future portfolio.    

MRC, in partnership with BBSRC carried out an independent, expert review of vaccines research in 2014 and BBSRC also reviewed its veterinary vaccinology portfolio.  These reviews highlighted the need for continued investment in basic science underpinning vaccinology and for further development of novel tools and technologies to meet the needs for new vaccines.

There is strong vaccine-related research across the UK, with an emphasis on disease-focussed approaches, and the reviews further highlighted the opportunities for animal and human vaccinologists to work together on some of the more fundamental bioprocesses or immunological pathways, and the implementation of new, potentially generic, platform technologies.  

To help address this, BBSRC, MRC and EPSRC are working together to highlight opportunities to develop new and improved vaccines.  This cross Council highlight notice aims to promote innovation in novel veterinary and medical vaccines, through the development and application of new tools and technologies, and forms part of the broader drive to make the UK an international centre for vaccine research and development (R&D).  The research funded here through response mode schemes will ensure that the UK’s aspirations to be world leading are supported by excellent vaccinology research, feeding into and complementing the recently announced initiative by the Prime Minister and led by the Department of Health - the UK Vaccines Research & Development Network.

It is anticipated that the highlight will support research at the earlier stages of the vaccine R&D pipeline but should take a holistic view of vaccine development with clear line of sight to the next stages of development.  Part of the success of this approach may be developing new interdisciplinary research partnerships for example, to bring together technologists with immunologists.

The scientific scope of the highlight is broad but emphasises the development of generic approaches to tackle a range of issues in vaccine development.  So, for example, potential areas that might be covered include (but are not restricted to)

Alternative Model Systems

  • Animal models

  • Human challenge models

Platform Technologies:

  • Novel vaccinology approaches e.g. reverse vaccinology, structural vaccinology, synthetic approaches

  • Antigen delivery mechanisms

  • Vaccine delivery systems

  • Protein expression systems

  • Antigen identification approaches

  • Scale-up/scale-down processes related to manufacturing

Novel Tools

  • Adjuvants

  • Novel immune manipulation

  • Immune reagents

This aims to bring cutting edge technology across the Councils’ portfolios into vaccine development and early-stage manufacturing research, and foster research that may be applicable across different diseases.

The Councils also want the highlight notice to stimulate closer working with the private sector.  Vaccines are a key focus for larger pharmaceutical companies, as well as the SME biotech industry and the cross Council highlight signals the opportunities for collaborative working between public and private sectors at all stages of the vaccine development pipeline. 

Key objectives:

  • To increase competitive research in developing novel tools and technologies for vaccinology 

  • To stimulate innovation in vaccinology at all stages of development

  • To promote a one health research ethos by bringing veterinary and medical scientists together  

  • To encourage research focussed on identifying prime vaccines for manufacture and developing suitable manufacturing technologies for such vaccines

  • To foster partnerships between clinical human and veterinary vaccine researchers, and industry

  • To develop generic platforms and technologies that will support vaccines research across diseases of both humans and animals

How the joint highlight will work

Proposals will be funded through response mode grants.  Initially, all applicants are asked to submit a brief Expression of Interest by 4p.m. on September 17 2015 to the following email inbox:      

The Expression of Interest (EOI) form can be downloaded (DOCX, 76KB).

EOIs will not be assessed on their scientific quality but the Research Councils will decide internally whether the expression of interest fits the aims of this joint highlight notice and with which Council your proposal sits best.

Applicants will be notified of this decision by 30 October 2015.

You will then be invited to submit a full application to the appropriate Council’s response-mode January/February 2016 deadlines for a decision in summer 2016.   

The following deadlines should be adhered to:





Response-mode deadline for all Committees

13 January 2016


Infection and Immunity Board

13 January 2016

Biomedical Catalyst Developmental Pathway Funding – Outline

Biomedical Catalyst Developmental Pathway Funding – Full

2 December 2015

29 March 2016


Investigator-led call – see EPSRC website for further details

End of February 2016


Vaccinology proposals will be in competition with all other proposals that come into response-mode competitions; however the Councils will use the EOI to manage funding demand and may at their discretion re-profile budget accordingly.

Applications will be processed by one council, but we will consider collaborative funding where appropriate. BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC will agree the percentage commitment to each application at the full application stage.

Applicants are advised to contact the Councils on the above contact if they are thinking of submitting an application under this highlight.