UQ to establish world leading mRNA lab

University of Queensland

mRNA vaccines and therapies will be produced for clinical trials in a dedicated laboratory to be established at The University of Queensland as demand for mRNA continues to surge.

Work is underway at UQ’s BASE facility which has become Australia’s leading provider of mRNA for research and pilot studies since its launch in 2021.

The Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) National Critical Research Infrastructure scheme will contribute $4.3 million, with global healthcare company and partner Sanofi and UQ each committing $1 million, and the Queensland Government $250,000.

BASE director, Associate Professor Tim Mercer said the project would cement the facility’s footing in the growing mRNA industry, which was worth $55 billion in 2022 and tipped to grow to $107 billion globally by 2030.

“This will provide the BASE facility with end-to-end capabilities for mRNA vaccine development, from their initial design through to clinical trials – allowing the next generation of mRNA vaccines and therapies to be built in Queensland,” Dr Mercer said

“This centre will help ensure the world’s biggest biotech companies continue to turn to Australian researchers at UQ when they’re looking to make what could be the next medical advance. We aim to begin manufacturing mRNA for Phase 1 clinical trials in 2024.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said having the capability to produce clinical trial quality mRNA in Australia was a crucial step towards pandemic preparedness and realising the economic benefits from research.

“Our BASE team has already grown from five founding scientists to more than 20 researchers now, and we expect to continue to grow with more highly skilled positions for mRNA manufacture,” Professor Terry said.

“This investment builds on the Translation Science Hub (TSH) partnership announced by the Queensland Government and Sanofi in December, in which UQ is a partner.”

Global and Australian experts are attending the Queensland Vaccines Symposium which was opened today by Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles, who said Queensland was leading the way in vaccine development and biomedical research.

“Queensland is home to world-class research facilities and a highly-skilled workforce driving the development of new vaccines and healthcare breakthroughs,” Mr Miles said.

“The University of Queensland has become a leader in mRNA research. And combined with the fact that Sanofi, one of the world’s largest healthcare companies, has chosen Queensland to invest in and reshape 21st century medicine, is a strong sign of things to come.”

Sanofi Managing Director of the Translational Science Hub, Dr Iris Depaz, said they were delighted to be supporting the project.

“The best way to truly realise the promise of mRNA technology is for the scientific community to have easy access to high-grade mRNA to use, test and learn.” Dr Depaz said

“Our contribution to this BASE MRFF grant is part of our commitment to supporting multiple projects that grow the local scientific ecosystem.”

UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology houses BASE which has already provided academic and industry partners with more than 150 experimental grade vaccines and therapies for cancers and infectious and genetic diseases.

“It is the first place that Australian biotech companies think of when they need support with this major new drug platform.”

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