Queensland to become a global mRNA vaccine hub

Queensland will become a global mRNA vaccine hub with a $280 million Translational Science Hub to be established.

Global healthcare company Sanofi and the Queensland Government have signed the agreement for the research facility, along with The University of Queensland and Griffith University as foundational partners.

The Hub will link leading Queensland researchers with scientists at the Sanofi mRNA Centre of Excellence in France and the United States, placing them at the forefront of global vaccine development and biomedical research.

University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the partnership built on a commitment to bring the latest technologies to UQ’s internationally recognised vaccine and drug development programs.

“The pivot to mRNA technologies was accelerated during the pandemic and UQ has invested in both the people and facilities to ensure mRNA for pre-clinical research can be developed and produced in Queensland,” Professor Terry said.

“Collaboration and partnership are at the heart of all great research, and we look forward to making a difference to global health in collaboration with our partners.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland will be the only jurisdiction in Australia to have a centre like this.

“Queensland has some of the best researchers in the world and the Translational Science Hub will give them the platform to develop life-saving vaccines,” she said.

“If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s the importance of local capability rather than relying on global markets.

“We want the world to know that Queensland is where business can come to do science and science can come to do business.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Steven Miles said the new Hub would help drive the development of new vaccines and health care solutions across the world.

“The Translational Science Hub is a gamechanger that very few jurisdictions globally are capable of,” Mr Miles said.

“Queensland’s best scientists will work with their global peers in the US and France on ground-breaking mRNA technology and vaccine development.

“The Hub will bring more expertise, supply-chain capabilities, as well as clinical investigations to Queensland.

“We expect it will create up to 200 jobs for Queenslanders and strengthen our biomanufacturing supply chain.

“We’re proud one of the world’s largest healthcare companies has chosen Queensland to help reshape 21st century medicine.”

mRNA technology is expected to deliver a new generation of vaccines that instruct certain cells to produce proteins that are recognised by the immune system to mount a defence.

The initial focus will be on improving mRNA technology and a first-ever vaccine for chlamydia.

Sanofi’s Global Head of Vaccine Research and Development, Jean-Francois Toussaint said the Hub would accelerate a new era of vaccine innovation.

“This breakthrough investment demonstrates our commitment to exploring mRNA technology by applying the minds of the best and brightest scientists from around the world,” Dr Toussaint said.

Sanofi Australia Country Medical Lead, Dr Iris Depaz said the partnership will cement Brisbane as a key location for vaccine research.

“Queensland is home to a fantastic network of immunologists and vaccine researchers located at some of the best universities in Australia,” Dr Depaz said.

“It will create jobs and nurture talent dedicated to protecting and improving our health.”

UQ Professor for Research Development, Paul Young, said the new private-public partnership would provide a significant boost to an already vibrant local biomedical ecosystem.

“Academic, industry and government collaborations and partnerships proved critical in moving our UQ vaccine forward at the height of the pandemic,” Professor Young said.

“With pharma now engaging locally, there will be even greater opportunities to translate the outcomes of our collective research and make a difference to national and global health.”

Vice Chancellor and President, Griffith University, Professor Carolyn Evans, said Griffith is delighted to be part of the partnership building on the strengths and capabilities of the University’s existing biomedical leadership.

“Our researchers are internationally recognised at bringing disease-specific mRNA expertise to developing new vaccines and therapies while our Clinical Trial Unit is a leader in testing safety and efficacy. We look forward to the work we undertake here in Queensland making a difference to global health outcomes,” Professor Evans said.

The Hub will utilise laboratories and infrastructure at UQ, Griffith University and the Translational Research Institute (TRI), with the research expected to commence early next year.

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