QLD government seals $280m partnership to establish mRNA vaccine research hub

QLD government seals $280m partnership to establish mRNA vaccine research hub

Translational Research Institute (Photo courtesy of Sanofi)

The Queensland Government, one of the world's largest vaccine innovators, and two Australian universities have today announced they will collectively commit $280 million towards establishing the Translational Science Hub – a new biomedical research centre focused on developing mRNA technology – in the state.

Paris-based Sanofi will connect Australian scientists with researchers in France and the US, who will together focus on developing a world-first mRNA vaccine for sexually transmissible infection (STI) chlamydia, as well as other mRNA vaccines.

As one of the most commonly transmitted STIs in Australia, chlamydia is of increasing public health concern due to its association with infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and pregnancy complications.

The partnership, which will involve scientists from the University of Queensland and Griffith University, is expected to create roughly 200 jobs within the research and clinical trials ecosystem, including researchers and healthcare professionals dedicated to improving mRNA technology.

While many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies, mRNA vaccines developed by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response if someone gets infected.

The Translational Science Hub will be located across the state, utilising laboratories and infrastructure of the University of Queensland, Griffith University and the Translational Research Institute (TRI). It is slated to commence by March 2023, with an initial focus on the chlamydia vaccine.

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

“The Hub will bring more expertise, supply-chain capabilities, as well as clinical investigations to Queensland. We’re proud one of the world’s largest healthcare companies has chosen Queensland to help reshape 21st-century medicine.”

Sanofi operates 20 research and development sites around the world exploring new medicines and vaccines. This includes translational science, where researchers work to translate early observations in the laboratory into clinical results that directly benefit people.

The company, which has a team across roughly 100 countries, is also developing therapeutic mRNA technology to address challenges in cancer, immune-mediated diseases, and rare diseases. Last month, its protein-based adjuvanted COVID-19 booster vaccine - developed alongside GSK and BARDA - was approved for use in Europe. 

In Australia, Sanofi is a major supplier of 17 vaccines with seven on the National Immunisation Program (NIP). The company has 50-plus medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and six rare disease therapies on the Life Saving Drugs Program.

Sanofi also has a consumer health business and manufacturing facility located in Brisbane.

“New generation vaccines based on mRNA technology will be an important part of Australia’s vaccine toolkit,” Sanofi Australia and New Zealand Country Medical Lead Dr Iris Depaz said.

“mRNA vaccines will complement existing vaccine technology, while having the potential to tackle diseases for which there is unmet need. For example, chlamydia, for which there is no vaccine yet.”

Sanofi Australia and New Zealand Country Lead Karen Hood added that collaboration was absolutely critical when combatting disease.

“The Translational Science Hub shows we are proud to invest in Australia and work as partners to harness cutting-edge science to forge a new era in medical innovation,” Hood said.

“By linking our global expertise with the knowledge bank here in Australia, we will help nurture a science ecosystem that is expected to create research and industry jobs in Queensland.” 

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