Monash gets Moderna mRNA plant

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An artist's impression of the facility. Image: Moderna

15 August 2022

The site of Moderna’s mRNA plant for Australia has been unveiled as Monash University’s Clayton precinct, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews joining Moderna ANZ General Manager Michael Azrak at Monash today to make the announcement.

While Azrak told MedNews earlier this year he had narrowed it down to three potential locations, Monash emerged as the chosen site for the mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility, with construction set to start before the end of the year and the plant operational by the end of 2024, producing up to 100 million doses of mRNA vaccines a year.

“Our facility at Monash University will enable the establishment of a world-leading mRNA manufacturing facility in the region,” Azrak said. “We look forward to being a part of the Monash Clayton precinct and contributing to the R&D ecosystem in Melbourne and across Australia.”

Moderna also finalised its agreement with the Federal and State Governments that will also see Moderna establish its headquarters in Melbourne and a Regional Research Centre for respiratory medicines and tropical diseases in Victoria. The public-private partnership will also see Moderna support mRNA research, development, and industry in Australia.

“Once this critical onshore mRNA capability is established, Australia will reduce its dependence on imported mRNA vaccines and our vulnerability to supply disruptions or delays,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“It will give Australians local and ongoing access to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax, and give us an onshore mRNA manufacturing capability in the event of a new pandemic, such as avian influenza or another new pathogen, vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variants or a global resurgence of infections.

“The partnership will lead to a world-class mRNA ecosystem based in Melbourne, attract highly skilled staff and expand local capability through joint ventures with leading Australian research organisations.”

The prime minister said the pandemic “has shown us how important local manufacturing capability is to our security and to our health”.

“This significant deal will protect Australians and Australian sovereignty,” he said.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Moderna ANZ GM Michael Azrak, and Monash University Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner at the event.

“We look forward to being a part of the Monash Clayton precinct and contributing to the R&D ecosystem in Melbourne and across Australia,” said Azrak.

The announcement follows last week’s announcement that a team of Melbourne researchers from Monash University and the University of Melbourne had received $5.4 million from the Victorian government to establish The Victorian mRNA Innovation Hub to develop next-generation mRNA vaccines and therapeutics to treat a range of diseases.

The Hub will bring together mRNA experts from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology and be headquartered at MIPS and Monash RNA.

The funding, which is part of the state government’s mRNA Victoria Activation Program initiative, aims to develop new technologies that will underpin mRNA therapeutics and vaccines that are more effective, cheaper and faster to produce. At the same time, the Hub will train a cohort of cross-disciplinary mRNA scientists to drive next generation mRNA innovation and production in Victoria.

Director of MIPS and Chair of The Victorian mRNA Innovation Hub Management Committee, Professor Chris Porter, said that Victoria’s mRNA ecosystem is on the cusp of significant opportunity but urgently needs to build a critical mass of highly trained scientists to drive domestic mRNA innovation and support this national imperative.

“We are lucky to have a pool of exceptional talent in mRNA research right here in Victoria, however until now there has been no central hub bringing together the cross-disciplinary skills in molecular biology, mRNA biology, drug delivery and pharmaceutical sciences to drive this expansion,” Professor Porter said.

“The major aim of The Victorian mRNA Innovation Hub is to increase the efficiency of mRNA manufacture and delivery, to develop unencumbered IP to support the development of Australian mRNA products and to train and upskill a community of mRNA scientists to drive Victorian mRNA innovation and create a skilled workforce.”

Monash University Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner said the investment highlights Victoria’s world-class capability in the field of mRNA therapeutics.

“Monash University and the partners involved in this exciting venture are well-positioned to lead Victoria’s end-to-end development of new mRNA vaccines and therapeutics for infectious and rare diseases,” she said.

©MedNews 2022

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