As Moderna has finalised its multi-billion dollar partnership with the Commonwealth and Victorian government, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continued to flag the importance of commercialising local research.
Moderna’s multi-billion dollar 10-year partnership formerly commenced in March this year after an in-principle agreement was signed last December. In addition to a vaccine manufacturing facility based at Monash University, Moderna will also establish local a headquarters and Regional Research Centre in Victoria. On Monday, the partnership arrangements were finalised.
The vaccine manufacturing facility is be based at Monash University and will be operational by 2024, with construction expected to begin by the end of the year. When operational, the facility will produce up to 100 million vaccine doses every year.
The facility will produce Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine Spikevax and vaccines against other pathogens. This is the first mRNA production facility to be located on a university campus and the first of its kind outside of North America.
The Prime Minister yesterday re-emphasised the lesson from the pandemic that Australia must be “more resilient and more self-reliant”, to end the assumption that the country can comfortably sit at the end of global supply chains.
“We’ve become complacent for a long period of time, that it was ok for us to meander along. It’s not. We need to make sure we commercialise our science and extract the full benefit for our nation. Not just for ourselves in some narrow nationalistic sense, but because of the country we are as well,” the Prime Minister said.
“Of course, in this part of the world, the fastest growing region of the world in human history, we have an opportunity to project that capacity into the Indo-Pacific as well. So this is an issue that isn’t just about health, it’s not just about science it’s also about national security.”
He also highlighted a meeting with a Monash University PhD student who had returned to Australia from the United States. The Prime Minister then said, “that’s what we need to do, we need a future made in Australia”.
He also confirmed that legislation for the $15 billion National Reconstruction fund promised during the election campaign would be introduced to parliament before the end of the year.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said that universities need to become more than just generators of new knowledge.
“Not just pure knowledge, not just about understanding, not just about the accumulation of wisdom, as important as that is. But about the translation of that knowledge into products and services, into jobs, into opportunities, into prosperity. From the laboratory to the factory, from the bench to the bedside,” the Victorian Premier said.
“When we think about great science, we think about London and Oxford, we think about Boston, and we think about Melbourne…we do this so much better than so many others and its great to be recognised not just for pure science, as important as that is, but for the application and that pathway, that process to turn amazing knowledge into products that will give us the sovereign capability against things like a pandemic and other respiratory conditions. And then, the unknown.”
Monash University vice-chancellor Margaret Gardiner expressed her excitement at Moderna’s development at the Science Technology Research and Innovation Precinct on the university’s Clayton campus.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be standing here…behind the speeches that were given by the [Victorian] Premier and the Prime Minister, to have that endorsement of the importance and engagement of knowledge, its discovery and its translation, and the way it works to build the wellbeing of our community,” Professor Gardiner said.
Last Thursday, CSIRO opened a $23.1 million National Vaccine and Therapeutics Lab in Melbourne. According to Australia’s national science agency “researchers at the lab will turn vaccine and drug candidates into products that can be manufactured in large quantities for clinical trials”.
The Victorian government established mRNA Victoria last April, a body that oversees the distribution of $50 million in support for mRNA research and infrastructure.
Support for vaccine development has been growing across Australia recently. The New South Wales budget 2022-23 committed $119 million over a decade to research and development. This builds on a commitment to establish a $96 million RNA pilot manufacturing facility, in partnership with all New South Wales universities, last October.
In the Queensland budget 2022-23, the state government committed $35 million to the construction of a vaccine translational manufacturing facility. This is in addition to the $20 million it already committed in 2021.
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