On Friday, the Australian government will commence an “approach to market” for developing the capacity to make messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines in Australia.
This comes as the government negotiates with Moderna about setting up an onshore manufacturing facility for mRNA vaccines.
In a statement, the government said onshore manufacturing would ensure a secure, long-term supply of Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccines against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, including variants and potential future pandemics.
The process, which was signalled in the May 11 Federal Budget 2021-22, will be open for eight weeks from Friday.
Industry Minister Christian Porter said Australian businesses and researchers were already developing mRNA capacity, describing it as a promising branch of science.
“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.
“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.
The mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer BioNtech, are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases and are being used in the fight against COVID-19.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said mRNA vaccines were already a key pillar of the government’s vaccine strategy and that mRNA technology had the potential to treat many other diseases, including cancer, flu, and cardiovascular disease.
Among the requirements set out by the government for applicants is that the submission includes 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.
The operation would also need to be sustained over 10 years with an undertaking to maintain the capability onshore on an ongoing basis.
Currently, Australia has secured 25 million doses of the Moderna vaccine.
In April, Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said the Victorian government would commit $50 million to help establish a facility to manufacture coronavirus vaccines, such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna, in Melbourne.
AAP contributed to this report.