The UK government has announced new investment to bolster testing capabilities in a bid to fast-track vaccines tailored for COVID-19 variants and help “future proof the country”, said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The government will invest £29.3m through the Vaccines Taskforce in Public Health England’s new testing facilities at Porton Down, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced today.

The funding will be used to bolster the facility’s current capacity from 700 to 3,000 blood samples tested a week, to assess the effectiveness of existing and new vaccines against ‘variants of concern’.

The tests will be used to measure the levels of COVID-19 antibodies that are produced by the respective vaccines. The government hopes that this will accelerate the pace and scale of specialised testing to support the ‘rapid development’ of COVID-19 vaccines designed to tackle specific mutations.

The government added that it is working with new and existing suppliers to design vaccines which specifically tackle COVID-19 variants of concern, with the Porton Down facility to help support this process.

"We’ve backed UK science from the very start of this pandemic and this multi-million-pound funding for a state-of-the-art vaccine testing facility at Porton Down will enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants,” said Hancock.

“We are committed to supporting the UK’s flourishing life-sciences industry and this announcement is yet another critical way we will build back better to protect the country over the coming months and years,” he added.

“This funding will allow us to increase the testing capacity at Porton Down with a new innovative facility and ensure our COVID-19 vaccines are effective against any future variants of concern,” commented Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment.