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News & Trends - Biotechnology

Allan Labor Government announces second mRNA hub in Victoria

Health Industry Hub | December 11, 2023 |

Biotech News: BioNTech, the force behind the world’s first mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed in partnership with Pfizer, has unveiled ambitious plans to establish manufacturing and research facilities in Melbourne, with a new agreement signed between the Victorian Government and La Trobe University.  

This development follows the December 2022 announcement by former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews regarding the establishment of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine facility in Melbourne’s south-east. The state-of-the-art facility, situated at Monash University’s Clayton campus, is currently undergoing construction and is projected to reach completion by 2024. Once operational, it will boast the remarkable capacity to manufacture 100 million vaccine doses annually, marking a pioneering milestone as the inaugural facility of its calibre in the Southern Hemisphere.

The agreement between BioNTech, Victorian Government and La Trobe University, which builds on a letter of intent the company signed in October of 2022, aims to position Australia at the forefront of next-generation cancer vaccine development. Over the next decade, BioNTech aims to enrol up to 4,000 Australian patients in clinical trials for its therapies, signifying a transformative opportunity for those battling hard-to-treat cancers.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has also signed an agreement with the Victorian Government and BioNTech. They will serve as the coordinating clinical delivery partner, leading a comprehensive clinical trials program. Collaborating with hospital partners including Monash Health, Alfred Health, and Austin Health, Peter Mac is geared to drive forward the next wave of oncology clinical trials in pancreatic, neck, cervical, oesophageal and colorectal cancers.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, saying “This partnership means more mRNA expertise in our state, more treatments for people with hard-to-treat cancers – and 1,200 more local jobs.”

Minister for Economic Growth Tim Pallas hailed the agreement as a significant milestone propelling Victoria as a global hub for biotechnology. He remarked “This is a coup that cements our standing as a global destination for biotechnology investment, research, and talent, and ensures we remain at the forefront of mRNA innovation.”

Peter Mac Board Chair, Professor Maxine Morand, highlighted the profound impact on cancer treatment in Australia.

“I am delighted that this partnership with BioNTech and the Victorian Government, will result in access to clinical trials for the next generation of cancer treatments in Australia. As the coordinating delivery partner, Peter Mac will lead a collaborative endeavour alongside key Victorian health services, leveraging our extensive expertise in cancer care, research, and education. Together, we anticipate our collaborative efforts will significantly improve outcomes for cancer patients,” he explained.

BioNTech CEO and co-founder Professor Ugur Sahin underscored the significance of the collaboration. He stated “BioNTech’s vision is to translate science into survival. Victoria is one of the leading life sciences hubs in the Asia Pacific region, and we are looking forward to strengthening its cutting-edge research and development.”

The manufacturing facility, to be constructed at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus, will be seamlessly integrated into BioNTech’s global manufacturing network. La Trobe University Chancellor, the Hon John Brumby AO, highlighted “Establishing the mRNA facility and Victorian Centre for AI in Medical Innovation within La Trobe’s University City of the Future locates them in an area surrounded by high-tech industry, manufacturing and healthcare.”

Additionally, BioNTech will establish a regional headquarters in Melbourne for InstaDeep, a recently acquired London-based startup specialising in using artificial intelligence (AI) for new drug development.

During the press event on Friday, government officials also announced that Victoria will build the Centre for AI in Medical Innovation (CAMI) next door to BioNTech’s site, which will develop artificial intelligence innovations and provide pathway opportunities for researchers and students.

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