Victoria: More money for mRNA vaccine manufacturing plan

Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

The Victorian government is continuing to bet big on mRNA vaccine manufacturing in the state with a new $2 million acceleration fund, as the wait continues on the Commonwealth’s significant funding decision.

While the Industry Department is still yet to pick a winner from its approach to market process for a domestic end-to-end mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability, consulting giant was recently handed a $600,000 pay rise for its advice on the issue, bringing its total pay cheque for its mRNA work this year to more than $6 million.

The federal government went to the market in May for blueprints for the mRNA manufacturing facility, with applications closing in July. Despite plans to reveal the winning bidder last month, there has been no announcement yet.

The Victorian government is understood to have backed several bids for Commonwealth funding, including from biotech heavyweight CSL, and is plowing ahead with its support for mRNA manufacturing in the meantime.

Victorian innovation minister Jaala Pulford announced a new $2 million mRNA acceleration fund on Tuesday morning, which will fast-track research in the space.

“More funding for mRNA research will allow us to build on our nation-leading capability, enabling Victorian researchers to lead the development of new applications and drive breakthroughs that change and save lives,” Ms Pulford said.

“RNA technology has created a new frontier for vaccine development and the fund will support Victoria’s researchers who lead the nation in mRNA capability.”

There will be extra weighting provided for grant applications from women-led projects and companies where women make up at least half of the research team.

It comes as the wait continues for the federal government’s decision on what company, or group of companies, will be tasked with establishing a national mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability.

Consulting giant McKinsey has been closely involved with this process from the start, and has been paid more than $6 million across this year for this week. Earlier this month the firm was awarded a contract amendment worth $638,000 for its advice on this process, with the contract running until the end of the year.

McKinsey was first paid $2.2 million over the first three months of this year to produce a business case for local mRNA manufacturing, which is still yet to be released publicly. The consultancy was then awarded a $2.1 million contract to assist the Industry department with the approach to market process.

It later landed a $1.45 million contract to provide further advice, running from 30 August to 20 December, with this now having been bumped up to more than $2.1 million.

The Victorian government is understood to have supported a number of different bids for the Commonwealth funding from local companies, including a joint bid from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Doherty Institute.

The state government has launched a $50 million mRNA fund of its own, and is now on the hunt for further support from the federal government.

A number of other states are also vying to win the Commonwealth backing, including New South Wales and South Australia.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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