BactiVac Online: Virtual Network Conference 2021

More than 200 scientists, industry figures and policy-makers from 30 countries around the world gathered online to share expertise at the BactiVac Virtual Network Conference 2021, hosted this year from the Senate Chamber at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Adam Cunningham and Cal MacLennan

High-profile contributors at the online event included Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK Special Envoy on Anti-Microbial Resistance, as well as Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics Dr Stanley A. Plotkin, who pioneered the Rubella vaccine and joined the event live from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America. Other contributors joined in a series of live and pre-recorded sessions from a variety of locations around the world including India, Bangladesh, China, Africa, Ireland, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. 

Held on the 27 and 28 April 2021, there were talks on a wide range of topics, from up-to-date insights on tackling anti-microbial resistance in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) to the role of veterinary vaccines and a “One Health” perspective on bacterial vaccinology, the latest news on global vaccine development, engagement with industry and the role of regulators.

BactiVac Director Professor Cal MacLennan said: “We have had two days of fantastic talks, delivering the latest advances in key areas including anti-microbial resistance, the production of vaccines in Europe, India and China, the crucial role of regulators, maternal vaccination in LMICs, the vital role of industry and the nexus between human and veterinary medicine.”

“As someone who has worked in industry as well as academia, I particularly appreciated the industry element of the meeting, with three talks from industry and manufacturers, Dr V Krishna Mohan from Bharat Biotech in India, Dr Xin Tong from Walvax in China and Dr Jan Poolman from Janssen vaccines in the Netherlands. This industry engagement is vital for us as a network that sees vaccines move all the way along the vaccine pipeline. We have to be engaged with manufacturers and that was a real highlight for me.”

“The One Health aspect is of key importance and is very much part of our network. Professor Dame Sally Davies referred to this on the first day in relation to anti-microbial resistance. If we can control bacterial disease in the veterinary world then we reap economic benefits in addition to reducing disease transfer to humans.”

BactiVac Co-Director Adam Cunningham, Professor of Functional Immunity at the University of Birmingham, said: “BactiVac is important because it helps bring people together from all disciplines to share their expertise. We saw this probably most clearly in the talk from Dr Kathleen M Neuzil from the University of Maryland in the United States of America on the first day, showing how a single dose of one vaccine against typhoid reduced cases by 80%. This is the combination of decades of work from multiple people, from basic scientists to chemists, to epidemiologists and policymakers all the way along the vaccine pipeline.”

“The two days have been a journey on how to take an idea or a product and turn it into something real and that is absolutely essential. One of the elements I really liked was understanding the role of the regulatory bodies and how they contribute. The talk from Dr Mair Powell, from the Health Products Regulatory Authority in Ireland, gave us fascinating insights into the thought processes required for that. I also really liked the veterinary aspect. I now have more appreciation for elements that I had not quite taken on board before and particularly the harshness of the economic reality of vaccines for veterinary purposes. Overall, each of the two days had a different emphasis and all of it is about pushing vaccines down the pipeline.”

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