Victoria makes Australia’s First mRNA vaccine candidate

Left-right: Doherty Institute Laboratory Head Professor Damian Purcell; Doherty Institute Head of Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group Professor Terry Nolan; Minister Jaala Pulford; Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor of Pharmaceutical BiologyProfessor Colin Pouton; IDT CEO Dr David Sparling and Sheena Watt MP. Image: supplied

Victorian scientists and manufacturers have created Australia’s first mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate – Australia’s first ever mRNA drug product – in just five months, enabling clinical trials to begin in the new year.

450 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate have been produced in Boronia, enabling 124 people to take part in Phase 1 clinical trials run by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) – a joint venture partnership between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Funded by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, results from the trial are expected in late 2022.

The Victorian Government invested $5 million to enable manufacture of the vaccine candidate, with dedicated equipment shipped to manufacturer IDT Australia from Canada. The machine processed nanoparticles into final liquid drug form, sterilised the product and filled vials with mRNA vaccine.

Victoria is one of the few places in the world with the capability to develop and manufacture mRNA therapeutics and vaccines and the mRNA-based vaccine breakthrough demonstrates Victoria’s leadership in the mRNA sector.

The project has been led by mRNA Victoria in partnership with Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), the Doherty Institute and IDT Australia – a landmark collaboration between Victoria’s renowned medical research and manufacturing sectors.

mRNA Victoria is a Victorian Government initiative set up to drive the establishment of a sovereign mRNA manufacturing industry.

Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford said that this is an Australian first that confirms Victoria as a leader in mRNA therapeutics and manufacturing – it is an incredible achievement to have made an mRNA vaccine candidate that is ready for clinical trials.

“We’re serious about developing our mRNA manufacturing capacity and doing it quickly as we can, because it will save lives,” Minister Pulford said.

University of Melbourne Professor Terry Nolan, Doherty Institute Head of Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group said that this is a major milestone in Australia’s ability to manufacture home-grown COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and they are excited to commence Phase 1 clinical trials of this candidate, along with the protein vaccine candidate developed by the Doherty Institute, in the coming months.