NSW commitment to mRNA manufacturing ‘unwavering’ despite feds rejection

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The New South Wales government’s commitment to establish an mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in the state remains “unwavering” despite the Commonwealth opting to back a Moderna facility in Victoria.

Australia may now end up with two sovereign mRNA vaccine manufacturing facilities, with one each in its two biggest states.

The federal government announced this week that it would be partnering with the Victorian government and pharmaceuticals giant Moderna to set up an mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Victoria following nearly a year of deliberations.

The cost of this deal will be kept secret but is understood to be more than $2 billion.

mRNA manufacturing capability. Image credit: IDT Australia.

The NSW government had strongly lobbied to secure this facility instead but was ultimately unsuccessful.

The state has already committed just under $100 million for the establishment of an RNA Pilot Manufacturing Facility in NSW, and remains committed to launching its own sovereign capability despite the rejection from the federal government.

“Our strong commitment to make the state a global force in RNA therapeutics to combat global diseases, including future pandemics, remains unwavering,” an Investment NSW spokesperson told InnovationAus.

“As part of its COVID-19 response, NSW is providing major support to its leading universities, research institutes and hospitals to advance RNA research, development and manufacturing.”

This means Australia may end up having two mRNA vaccine manufacturing facilities in the next three years.

The Victoria facility will be able to produce 25 million vaccine doses by 2024 at the earliest, with capacity to scale this up to 100 million in the event of another pandemic.

The NSW government is currently working with local industry and the RNA Bioscience Alliance to identify an appropriate site for its own facility and its operational model. Details of this are expected early next year, subject to a final business case approval.

Earlier this year the state government pledged $96 million for the launch of an “Australian-first” RNA Pilot Manufacturing facility, which will “enhance the state’s capacity to translate and commercialise research on RNA therapeutics”.

“The facility will support the development of a viable commercial RNA industry in NSW and has the potential to be scaled up to significantly increase the state’s sovereign vaccine production capacity to boost resilience against future pandemics,” the Investment NSW spokesperson said.

The NSW government has also pledged $15 million for the RNA Production and Research Network, which will support the state’s universities to educate and train an mRNA workforce.

Before the federal announcement, the Victorian government had committed $50 million for its own mRNA vaccine program.

Homegrown pharma giant CSL was also rejected by the federal government after applying to establish Australia’s mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility.

The company has said that it remains committed to establishing this centre, but that it may now be based overseas.

“The company will continue to consider options for an industrial-scale mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility and determine where it is most compatible within our global network,” CSL chair Dr Brian McNamee said this week.

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