NSW is building an RNA drug development lab to commercialise university medical research

- October 21, 2021 2 MIN READ
Prof. Palli Thordarson, Gabriel Upton, UNSW student Annika
Professor Palli Thordarson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Gabrielle Upton and UNSW student Annika
NSW is making a play to be at the cutting edge of drug and vaccine development with a new university-based lab and pre-clinical trial space to create early-stage mRNA and RNA-based drugs.

mRNA is the new science behind the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines. While Australia has played a key role in research and development of vaccines in response to the global pandemic, it does not produce mRNA vaccines. The nation currently imports all its mRNA vaccines and is ceasing local production of the Astra Zeneca jab as global attention turns to RNA responses.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the state government’s $96 million in funding for the facility is designed to attract commercial investment in local mRNA and RNA production.

“We are the first state in Australia to deliver a pilot manufacturing facility to spearhead the establishment of a local RNA industry,” he said.

“The COVID pandemic has demonstrated to the world that it is critically important that we have the capability to develop vaccines quickly and for our country to have sovereign capability. The advent of mRNA vaccines and the crucial role they’ve played in getting NSW back on the road to a pandemic recovery is just the beginning of what this incredible emerging medical technology can do.”

Professor Barney Glover, convener of the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, said the $96 million investment an important milestone to commercialising local research.

“The investment in the pilot facility is a significant signal that the NSW Government is considering deeper investment in R&D capabilities that will in turn empower the pilot facility to become more commercially viable and attractive to industry investment,” he said.

“Universities look forward to working closely with government and industry, to utilise and translate our collective research strengths to achieve real impact for the communities we serve.”

The move comes following the formation of the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance which brings together leading universities and research institutes to advance RNA research, development and manufacturing.

Alliance leader Professor Pall Thordarson said vaccines are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways  RNA therapeutics are revolutionising medicine.

“A manufacturing capability would position Australia as a leader in the development of novel RNA technologies and the NSW universities are proud to collaborate with NSW Government and industry partners to drive the development of the RNA ecosystem in NSW,” he said.

The project is subject to the approval of a final business case.