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Australian vaccine manufacturing race at starting line

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The federal government wants a show of interest from drug manufacturers to make advanced mRNA COVID vaccines in Australia, with an approach to market beginning today.

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The mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines such as Pfizer are a new type of vaccine which use advanced technology to protect against infectious diseases and are being used in the fight against coronavirus.

The Morrison government is today releasing an approach to market for the development of onshore mRNA manufacturing.

In a statement, the government said it was continuing negotiations with existing manufacturers while approaching the market for others that could provide solutions.

The approach to market process will be open for eight weeks from Friday.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter, said mRNA was an extremely promising branch of medical science and Australian businesses and researchers were already developing mRNA capacity.

“The government is inviting key commercial providers and potential providers to demonstrate their future capability and explain what government involvement, assistance or support could make that capacity a reality,” Porter said.

“However our market analysis also shows there are gaps and challenges to scale up, which mean it’s not currently possible to commercially manufacture mRNA treatments locally.”

It comes after revelations last week that biotech firm BioCina believes it can start manufacturing advanced mRNA COVID-19 vaccines at an Adelaide facility “within 12 months”, and is in ongoing negotiations with the federal health department.

The biologics contract development and manufacturing firm owns a 4600 square metre facility in Thebarton which it says is “the most advanced facility of its kind in Australia”, although it could face stiff competition from the Victorian Government who have put $50 million towards kickstarting local mRNA vaccine manufacturing.

Among the requirements set out by the federal government for applicants are the submission of fully costed proposals to establish an end-to-end onshore population-scale mRNA capability.

The applicants would need to demonstrate access to necessary intellectual property for manufacturing processes and make products available to the Australian government as required and in priority over any other purchaser.

Any manufacturer would need to deliver secure supplies of population-scale mRNA vaccines, including the ability to scale up production to respond to reasonably foreseeable health emergencies.

Any operation would also need to be sustained over 10 years with an undertaking to maintain the capability onshore on an ongoing basis.

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