Vaccine Chronicles: Experiences from Imperial’s Vaccine Student Research Network Seminar

On January 15th, we had the pleasure of hosting the Vaccine Bioscience Seminar, part of the Winter Seminar Series. This was the first event we organised—a kick-off for the Vaccine Student Research Network. Our aim was to provide an interdisciplinary perspective on vaccine research for postgraduate students and offer a first glimpse into the breadth of science taking place at Imperial.

While the COVID-19 pandemic now seems to be behind us, this seminar helped us to reflect on these years and the crucial role of vaccine technology. Throughout the afternoon, we discussed public health and pandemic management through various lenses.

The event drew big name speakers, each of whom contributed a significant piece of a big-picture discussion. To start, Dr. Ferdinando Insalata presented the mathematical foundations of the SIREN study, a unique and powerful UK-led clinical study that helped inform policymakers about COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness. Then, Dr. Zoltán Kis shared insights into building sufficient production capacity for the next pandemics. Zoltán introduced digital tools to facilitate knowledge sharing among vaccine developers and manufacturers. His vision of distributed manufacturing to enhance vaccine supply in low- and middle-income countries was undoubtedly inspirational for many of us. Following this, we had the chance to listen to Dr. Simon Barton from the NHS, who delivered a thought-provoking talk on how we can learn from the HIV experience for future vaccine development. He emphasised the essential role of public health behaviours in limiting transmissions. In a hopeful concluding note, Prof. Robin Shattock showcased in his keynote presentation the potential of self-amplifying RNA technology to address many unmet medical needs. At the end of the sessions, Imperial students seized the opportunity to discuss the future of vaccine research with our panel of experts: upcoming vaccines in clinical pipelines, future regulatory challenges, and improved vaccine accessibility.

Overall, we are proud to have organised such an event, attracting over 100 attendees from various departments. We all felt that we learned something valuable about vaccine technologies and vaccine innovations. It was wonderful to see how the UK ecosystem, especially the diverse Imperial community, is a vibrant place for concrete and impactful vaccine research. We are now even more excited about our upcoming seminars organised for the large postgraduate student’s community from across four faculties at Imperial. We are also looking forward to inviting you to our annual conference in September. Stay tuned and check out our network’s website!

The Imperial Vaccine Student Network Committee

(Authors: Simon Daniel and Tom Kitto)