Skip to content

UK Aid funding for Nottingham research to develop Zika virus vaccine

Scientists in Nottingham have been awarded £462,462 for the development of a vaccine for the Zika virus from £10m of UK Aid funding for research into vaccines to protect the world from deadly diseases.

Science lab
NTU is supporting the work to develop a Zika virus vaccine (Stock image)

The project being led by The University of Nottingham is one of 22 to have been selected by the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) and to be delivered by Innovate UK.

The research, being led by Dr James Dixon in the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biodiscovery Institute (BDI) with Professor Janet Daly, Professor of Viral Zoonoses and Deputy Director of the Wolfson Centre for Global Virus Research, will focus on a new DNA vaccine platform to induce safe protective immunity from Zika.

The virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes in regions of the world including Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa, and is a serious risk to pregnant women and their unborn children, as there is evidence that it can cause birth defects, particularly abnormally small heads (microcephaly).

The work will also involve scientists at Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre.

Dr Dixon said: “Our vision is to produce an effective, safe, single-dose prophylactic vaccine platform for Zika using our peptide-based delivery system which is applicable to any emergent virus.

“This project builds on our previous experience in developing a DNA vaccine for COVID-19 with Innovate UK funding.”

Professor Daly said ‘We are pleased to also be collaborating with Professor Luís CS Ferreira and colleagues at the University of Sao Paulo’s Vaccine Development Laboratory in Brazil on this project. Despite all the success with SARS-CoV-2, vaccines are not yet available for Zika as immune responses to closely-related viruses such as dengue make designing effective and safe strategies problematic.”

Scientists in Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre will help to screen the new vaccine for its capacity to trigger immune responses against the Zika virus.

Graham Pockley, Professor of Immunobiology in Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre, said: “We will provide our specialist facilities and expertise to support the University of Nottingham in this crucial work to develop a vaccine for Zika virus, for which there are currently no treatments. It is especially exciting to be supporting a project which has the potential to deliver significant benefits to people in low and middle-income countries.”

The UK Vaccine Network sits within the DHSC’s Global Health Security programme and was established to address market failure in the development of vaccines and vaccine technologies. It does this through funding vaccine research to help combat infectious diseases that have epidemic potential in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

UKVN is a UK Aid investment, which means all projects funded must support research primarily and directly for the benefit of people in LMICs. The UKVN has already funded 78 projects with over £115 million worth of UK aid funding, as part of the government’s commitment to defeat poverty, tackle instability and create prosperity in developing countries.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Dave Rogers, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email.

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens. NTU was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards). It was the University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards). NTU is one of the UK’s largest universities, with over 33,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 4,000 and an NTU community representing around 160 countries. In the past 15 years, NTU has invested £450 million in tools, technology and facilities. NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2019 UCAS UG acceptance data) It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 75% of NTU students go on to graduate-level employment or graduate-entry education / training within fifteen months of graduating (Guardian University Guide 2021). NTU is 4th globally (and 3rd in the UK) for sustainability in the 2021 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

    The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide Sports University of the Year twice in three years, most recently in 2021. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published on 21 February 2022
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology