Australia to Play Key Role in Moderna’s Next Chapter
It’s less than two years since Moderna brought its coronavirus vaccine to the world, but the company’s global chief executive Stephane Bancel has ambitious plans for the company’s next stage of innovation and growth.
Australia looks set to play a key part in the next chapter of the biotech’s history. After much hand-wringing about the lack of onshore sovereign vaccine manufacturing, the Morrison and Andrews governments brokered a deal with Moderna last year to build an mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Victoria.
The facility will initially be focused on respiratory vaccines, and will present a challenge to home-grown biotech CSL if Moderna ends up bringing its combined coronavirus and flu vaccines to market.
The company’s investment in Melbourne leaves the door open for other new treatments to one day be made in Australia. While the plant’s initial focus is COVID and respiratory products, Bancel says the business is planning to be in Australia permanently, and could roll out other production here.
“Could we do more in Australia over the next 5-10 years? Of course,” he said. “It’s a good, fertile ground for innovation in Australia. We see the plant as a stepping stone.”
Over the past two years the nation has gone from having no capacity to develop or produce mRNA vaccines at scale to having several high-tech projects in the works.
Moderna’s manufacturing site at Monash University is set to come online by 2024. Meanwhile, CSL is also building an $800 million influenza vaccine plant at Tullamarine, which could also allow its own mRNA flu product, which is currently in development, to be made onshore.
Earlier this month, Pfizer’s vaccine partner BioNTech confirmed it would set up a clinical research hub in Victoria, which would boost the number of clinical trials the company will conduct in Australia. Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas called the company’s investment a “major coup” that would open up opportunities for researchers to collaborate with global companies.
Not only do these investments turbocharge the nation’s biotechnology sector, they could also result in Australian patients getting easier access to cutting-edge drugs made onshore.
Moderna, Inc. is an American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts that focuses on RNA therapeutics, primarily mRNA vaccines. These vaccines use a copy of a molecule called messenger RNA to produce an immune response.
[Source: Moderna: After COVID vaccine, pharma looks to expand pipeline (smh.com.au)]