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SA ‘well-heeled’ to manufacture advanced COVID vaccines

July 5, 2021

Published in InDaily

Excerpts copied below. Read the full article in InDaily at the link at the bottom of the page.

“A push to manufacture advanced mRNA coronavirus vaccines at a plant in Thebarton remains on track as biotech and research consortiums across Australia look to answer the Federal Government’s call to establish onshore sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability.”

“Currently, Australia’s only active coronavirus vaccine manufacturing site is located in Melbourne. Owned by biotech company CSL, the plant has been producing more than one million doses per week of the AstraZeneca vaccine – which utilises more common viral vector inoculation technology.

But with health advice recommending against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for under 60s, the Federal Government has been forced to reconsider its rollout strategy and set aside an undisclosed pool of money in the 2021-22 budget to support onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing.”

“The Commonwealth put out an approach to market for local mRNA vaccine manufacturing on May 21, giving Australian firms eight weeks to lodge applications for grant monies.”

“Biologics contract development and manufacturing firm BioCina, a subsidiary of global private investment firm Bridgewest Group, went public in May with a bid to manufacture mRNA vaccines at a 4600m2 plant in Thebarton in conjunction with the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health Medical Research Institute.

The firm acquired the Thebarton site from Pfizer in August 2020, and it is touted by BioCina as “the most advanced facility of its kind in Australia” and the only one to have received approval from the US Federal Drug Administration.

In May, BioCina CEO Ian Wisenberg said production at the Thebarton facility could begin ‘within 12 months’ if they received funding from the Federal Government.”

“‘We’re well-heeled to be able to enter into mRNA manufacturing,’ Wisenberg told InDaily.

‘This is a national requirement and something that we feel very strongly on that needs to be a concerted effort and a collaborative effort.’”

“For Wisenberg’s firm to begin manufacturing, it needs to secure a technology transfer agreement with one of the pharmaceutical companies that created the vaccine.

‘The big piece that the government has kind of put on the shoulders of companies like BioCina, or the consortiums if you will, has been the access to or acquisition of IP (intellectual property) around the full technology,’ Wisenberg said.

He said it is more likely BioCina will be able to strike a deal with US biotech company Moderna due to that firm’s stated interest in working with the Australian Government to investigate local manufacturing opportunities.”

“‘I believe we found some options either with Moderna or another company,’ Wisenberg said.

‘I am extremely excited about what we’re putting together as a proposal to the government, and hopefully bringing in other consortiums whether it be New South Wales or even Victoria CSL.’”

“Wisenberg said BioCina would be looking to partner with other companies to fill in the parts of the manufacturing and distribution process his company does not specialise in yet.

‘As we look at our expertise and where we have comfort – it’s in getting to a drug product,’ he said.

‘[But] to get to a drug product, you need to specialise. We need the lipid nanoparticles and the encapsulation technology which we don’t have currently.’

‘That’s something that could come with a potential partner that we’ve identified that has that technology, and we’ve identified the equipment partner as well.’”

“Wisenberg said an onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing site will allow Australia to react “more fluidly” to future pandemics, variants and diseases with the same RNA platform.

‘It’s not about COVID as in COVID-19, but COVID-22’”