Australia Strikes a Deal With Moderna to Set Up mRNA Vaccine Manufacturing Facility

Australia Strikes a Deal With Moderna to Set Up mRNA Vaccine Manufacturing Facility
Source: Getty / Javier Zayas Photography

Australia has struck a deal with pharmaceutical giant Moderna, allowing the latter to set up a facility in Melbourne. This will mean the production of up to 100 million Australian made mRNA doses every year.

The deal, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, will mean Australia can meet its ongoing COVID-19 vaccine needs, as well as develop any other new respiratory mRNA vaccines.

“It will also make Australia a critical regional hub for mRNA technology development and production, bolstering our local biotechnology sector,” his statement reads.

“This is an Australian made shot in the arm that will protect Australians from future pandemics and secure a new manufacturing capability right here on our shores,” he continues.

The Moderna mRNA facility is expected to be up and running come 2024 and forms part of a 10-year deal signed between the federal government, the Victorian government and Moderna. If you thought this was already announced, you were correct – the Victorian government revealed plans for this facility back in December.

It followed the New South Wales government in October injecting $96 million into a new pilot facility to develop mRNA and RNA vaccines.

Earlier this month, we reported Moderna was urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a fourth dose of its COVID-19 vaccine for use in adults 18 years old and over. It seems Australia was listening, with the advice to get a fourth jab ‘imminent’.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday met with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). He told media was expecting to get the advice over the course of the day as to whether Australians should be recommended a fourth jab.

He said he will consider it and have more to say probably in the next 48 hours.

mRNA vaccines work by delivering genetic information that allows the body’s own cells to produce a viral protein — such as a harmless, engineered version of the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to break its way into the body’s cells. When the body subsequently produces that protein, the immune system rapidly mobilises to fight it, conducting a sort of live-fire training exercise that prepares it to fight the actual coronavirus; the actual mRNA delivered by the vaccine quickly disintegrates, but the antibodies stick around as a garrison against future infection. Per the MIT News Office, this allows for much easier and faster production than prior generations of vaccines relying on manufacturing the proteins under laboratory conditions.

The mRNA sequence more or less serves as a sort of source code for the vaccine.