The University of Queensland could develop mRNA vaccines 'within months' after a $2.2 million Federal Government investment

  • A new University of Queensland facility could develop mRNA vaccines “within months”, potentially bolstering Australia’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • mRNA technology is the basis of the highly successful Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which has been rolled out worldwide.
  • Researchers hope the facility, instituted with a matched $2.2 million Federal Government investment, could also contribute to mRNA therapies designed to fight cancer.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A new University of Queensland research hub could develop mRNA vaccines “within months”, potentially boosting Australia’s capacity to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and diseases including cancer.

UQ’s BASE facility, announced Thursday, will produce the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, the building blocks of mRNA vaccine development — the same research which led to Pfizer’s highly effective COVID-19 vaccine.

Researchers hope BASE could assist in COVID-19 vaccine research by bridging the gap between local research and development firms and major manufacturers.

Experts are also optimistic the relatively new vaccine technology could be adapted to fight other illnesses.

“mRNA vaccines have been key in our fight against COVID-19, while other mRNA vaccines are showing great potential in the fight against cancer,” UQ’s Associate Professor Timothy Mercer said in a statement.

The technology has the potential to highlight the proteins expressed by cancerous cells, allowing “immune cells to recognise and attack tumours,” Dr Mercer said.

The university’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology will host the BASE hub, using a matched $2.2 million investment from the Federal Government’s Therapeutics Innovation Australia consortium.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports BASE is expected to launch operations by the end of the year.

Its arrival comes at a pivotal moment in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which has been significantly delayed by supply chain issues and unforeseen health recommendations.

Australia has secured some 40 million doses of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, but 20 million of those are slated to arrive in the latter half of 2021.

The AstraZeneca adenovirus vaccine, which was slated to form the basis of Australia’s rollout, is no longer recommended for those under 50 due to reported links to rare blood clots.

And the Novavax protein vaccine, which is expected to form the third prong of the nation’s rollout, has been delayed to the third quarter of the year.

Separately, research for an earlier COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by UQ and CSL was called off in December, after it resulted in false-positive readings for HIV.

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