By: 18 March 2024
Future vaccine makers to get VR-assisted training centre of excellence

Future medicine and vaccine makers will be able to develop their skills using virtual reality thanks to a new national Centre of Excellence being supported by Teesside University.

The University, through its National Horizons Centre, has joined a consortium of UK higher education institutions to deliver training and outreach materials and programmes that address skills demands in the life sciences sector.

The RESILIENCE Centre of Excellence for UK Medicines Manufacturing Skills is being led by the University of Birmingham and has received £4.5m of funding from Innovate UK and the Office for Life Sciences, to work with healthcare and pharmaceutical organisations to provide a single-entry point for training and career input including a pipeline of continuing professional development courses.

Students across the UK will benefit from access to training that draws on the best and most innovative teaching being developed by the RESILIENCE Centre, including the use of virtual reality and mixed reality situations that give students ‘near to real life’ experiences of lab environments for medicine manufacturing in addition to more traditional teaching approaches.

Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre, a national centre of excellence for bioscience and healthcare, has a well-established reputation for working closely with industry to deliver innovate bioscience training, including the use of VR technology to deliver real-world experience in a virtual environment.

Professor Vikki Rand, Director of the National Horizons Centre, said: “At the National Horizons Centre we have a strong track record for working with partners in the bioscience sector developing innovative training for the workforce.

“By combining hands-on training on the latest equipment with digital technology, including VR and AR, we deliver real impact for the companies, by saving quality time and resources and giving them the ability to train their employees at scale.

“We are delighted to be part of this excellent national project that is ensuring that the UK retains its leading place in biomanufacturing. We are looking forward to delivering a real step-change in driving the talent pipeline to manufacture medicines of tomorrow.”

Ivan Wall, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Birmingham and Co-Director of RESILIENCE said: “The UK is a global leader in life sciences research, but there is a critical and growing skills shortage across the medicines manufacturing industry. The RESILIENCE Centre of Excellence will bridge this skills gap, by developing a pipeline of talent and providing training for industry to ensure current and future employees possess the right skills for a rapidly evolving sector.”

Life sciences businesses will be key partners in the delivery of the RESILIENCE centre to ensure that training needs are adapted to suit pressing priorities.

Current needs that the Centre will address include training provision for digital skills, data analytics, and AI, as well as embedding environmental sustainability into manufacturing processes. With the use of virtual reality and mixed reality delivery modes, manufacturing staff can undertake a significant amount of training in VR rather than the physical environment, reducing production of manufacturing waste that has to be incinerated, as well as speeding up the training process.

The RESILIENCE Centre of Excellence will be led by an academic consortium led by the University of Birmingham and working with University College London, Teesside University, and Heriot-Watt University and Britest LTD, to deliver an Innovate UK and Office for Life Sciences-funded programme.

School children will also benefit from the newly established Centre through free resources to inspire a future generation of medicine makers.

The RESILIENCE Centre will provide teaching and outreach materials to 150 schools, colleges, and universities for free, enabling them to become affiliate members of the RESILIENCE network, as well as nurture the talent pipeline for the medicines manufacturing sector through education, mentoring and outreach.

Training courses will also be developed to support the existing workforce in the UK medicines manufacturing community, across industry and NHS, to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of medicines development and is ready to combat future pandemics.

More information and source:

Image: Professor Craig Gaskell (second-left), Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange) with members of the National Horizon’s Centre RESILIENCE project team: (From left) Professor Vikki Rand (Director of the National Horizons Centre), Professor Safwan Akram (Professor of Innovation in Healthcare) and Connor Foster (Senior Bioprocessing Trainer and Training Coordinator)