The Australian and Victorian state government has inked a $2 billion (US$1.4 billion) deal with U.S. pharmaceutical giant, Moderna, to build a new facility that will be capable of producing 100 million mRNA vaccine doses per year.
The Morrison government announced the deal on Dec. 14, as part of its strategy to shore up the country’s sovereign capability—against global supply chain issues—and for Australia to become a key vaccine supply hub for the region.
The second closest vaccine manufacturing facility of scale is in Singapore.
“The new mRNA manufacturing facility in Victoria will produce respiratory vaccines for potential future pandemics and seasonal health issues such as the common flu, protecting lives and livelihoods,” the prime minister said in a statement.
The facility is expected to be ready by 2024 and will produce 25 million vaccines per year with the capacity to scale up to 100 million vaccines.
It is expected to create 1,000 new jobs, with 500 during construction and another 500 ongoing roles.
“Medical manufacturing is at the heart of our Modern Manufacturing Initiative, creating jobs and securing Australia’s economic recovery, with more than a million Australians back working in manufacturing, the highest level since Labor let it fall in 2009.”
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the facility was a vital contribution to the country’s “research and development landscape.”
“This investment will mean world-leading clinical trials, a strong local workforce and creating opportunities through supply chain activities, helping to drive Australia’s economy forward,” he said.
The billions of dollars invested into COVID-19 vaccines globally has allowed pharmaceutical firms, like Moderna and Pfizer, to accelerate the development of new vaccine platforms such as mRNA.
Researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University are hoping to finetune the first mRNA vaccine by early 2022.
Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, director of endocrinology at Flinders Medical Centre, however, say mRNA—and viral vector—development was rushed, which may have contributed to issues with adverse reactions.
“I think there was early leadership by Oxford University [AstraZeneca] with the adenovirus viral vector being put into human trials very quickly, you saw that similarly with Moderna and its mRNA approach,” he told The Epoch Times.
“This created a ‘follow the leader’-type mentality with (manufacturers) Sputnik and Johnson and Johnson copying the Oxford approach and Pfizer following Moderna with the mRNA approach.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Omar Korshid, president of the Australian Medical Association, said the facility would be a major addition to the world’s vaccine stocks.
“It is great news, not just for the management of this pandemic, but for the enormous horizons that mRNA technology has in terms of treating other diseases we wouldn’t have thought could be treated by vaccines, such as cancers,” he told the Nine Network.