NSW govt to tip $119m into RNA R&D

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The New South Wales government will commit $119 million over a decade to research and development in this month’s state budget after falling behind Australian and global levels. The new money will support the RNA Pilot Manufacturing Facility announced last year.

State Treasurer Matt Kean announced the R&D funding on Friday, saying it will accelerate the translation of local RNA research into new products, services and jobs.

It comes after the NSW government committed to establishing a $96 million RNA pilot manufacturing facility in partnership with universities in October last year, and with a recent innovation scorecard shining a light on the state government’s slipping overall investment in R&D.

mRNA manufacturing. Image credit: IDT Australia.

The NSW state government invests less than $400 million in R&D each year. Recent analysis found NSW is at the very bottom of a ranking of large Australian states, the OECD, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, the US and other comparable jurisdictions in terms of government R&D investment as a share of gross domestic or state product.

The analysis, in the NSW Innovation and Productivity Scorecard, identified state government investment as one of the few areas New South Wales is underperforming in, along with university-industry collaboration and venture capital investment.

The prebudget announcement is targeted at the state’s planned RNA Pilot Manufacturing Facility. The pilot facility is valued at $96 million and will go ahead despite New South Wales missing out on its race with Victoria to establish a large mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility.

New South Wales Treasure Matt Kean said the new funding will support R&D initiatives to be undertaken, including the pilot facility.

“This funding provides strategic support to strengthen NSW’s sovereign capability in designing and manufacturing RNA therapeutics to combat everything from pandemics to cancer and genetic diseases,” Mr Kean said.

“It will continue to build NSW’s globally-competitive innovation ecosystem by attracting global investment and international businesses, and creating a stronger and more skilled workforce.”

Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology Alister Henskens, who has promised long term investments in innovation, said the RNA facility will produce much more than vaccines.

“We want to create a brighter future for the people of NSW and turbocharging R&D opportunities is an essential mechanism to achieve that goal,” Mr Henskens said.

“The value of RNA technology has been proven throughout the pandemic through the use of mRNA vaccines, but we know that vaccines are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to RNA,” he said.

“By bringing together our world-leading universities and industry leaders, we can deliver innovative solutions to some of the most the important and complex challenges facing the world.”

14 New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory universities are collaborating on the RNA Pilot Manufacturing Facility, which is being led by a NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance.

“This investment is crucial to our shared vision to advance NSW as a global leader in the RNA ecosystem,” said the alliance’s head, UNSW Professor Pall Thordarson.

“With the State government’s investment, the NSW research community will be able to address a range of current health challenges and attract a number of national and international industry collaborators and jobs to the state.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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