The Australian government will invest $1 billion over 12 years to ensure its sovereign capability to produce and access vaccines in future pandemics.
This comes as Seqirus, a subsidiary of CSL, announced that it would build a new $800 million biotech manufacturing facility in Australia to supply influenza vaccines to Australia and the world.
The new world-class Seqirus facility will use cell-based technology to produce influenza vaccines for both seasonal and future pandemic programs. It is expected to be the largest vaccine manufacturing facility in the Southern Hemisphere.
The facility will additionally produce antivenom for Australian snakes, spiders, and marine creatures, and the world’s only human vaccine for Q-Fever.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in Melbourne on Monday to visit CSL’s Broadmeadows plant in his first trip to the city since February.
“One of the lessons that many countries have learnt including Australia is we need to continue to invest in supply chain resilience,” he told 3AW radio.
He said having upgraded vaccine manufacturing capabilities would be crucial in the event of another pandemic.
“This is for the future, but it also is creating economic opportunities right now and security around our supply chains in a critical medical area,” Morrison said.
CSL is already in line to manufacture the AstraZeneca and University of Queensland COVID-19 vaccines at its Melbourne facility in Broadmeadows. CSL began making coronavirus vaccine candidates in Melbourne last week.
CSL’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Paul Perreault said, “Providing safe and effective influenza vaccines is essential in securing our defences against serious public health threats.”
The new Australian-based facility will be plugged into CSL’s global influenza manufacturing supply chain.
“Cell-based influenza vaccine technology offers many advantages over the existing process, including being more scalable and offering faster production—particularly important in the case of influenza pandemics,” Perreault said.
The existing deal with Seqirus was due to expire in 2024/25, potentially putting Australia at risk of needing to source critical medical products from overseas.
The new agreement runs until 2036.
The new facility will be built near the airport in Melbourne, which has been in lockdown the longest of any Australian city amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (novel coronavirus) crisis.
Work will start next year—creating 520 construction jobs—with the site expected to be operating by mid-2026.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the new facility would guarantee Australia’s security against pandemic influenza for the next two decades.
“This is a major milestone, ensuring that Australia can mass-produce vaccines against future flu pandemics,” he said.
AAP contributed to the article.