Brisbane biotechnology company Vaxxas has opened the doors of a new 5,500sqm headquarters in Hamilton that will scale up manufacturing of its needle-free vaccine patch platform, supporting up to 200 jobs and producing millions of vaccine patches per year once fully operational.
Trypanaphobia, or fear of needles, is a condition that affects a significant portion of the population. Studies show that up to a quarter of the US population has this fear, and up to 16 per cent of people may be skipping vaccinations due to the condition.
Founded in 2011, Vaxxas has been developing the commercial application of technology developed at the University of Queensland (UQ) to make vaccines more convenient courtesy of a high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP). The patch is covered in thousands of tiny vaccine-coated microprojections that deliver the vaccine to abundant immune cells naturally present just below the skin's surface.
As the technology is dry-coated it also has the potential to eliminate or significantly reduce the need for refrigeration, simplifying storage and transport, while another benefit could be the ability to self-administer due to the ease of use.
Late last year the group secured a $34 million financing round to fund the expansion of its manufacturing facilities and progress with clinical trials, and in February Vaxxas kicked off a Phase I clinical trial for seasonal flu inoculation.
The new global headquarters and state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, financially and operationally supported by the Queensland Government for development, will produce the patches for late-stage clinical trials and Vaxxas' first commercial sales.
Additional funding has been provided by the Federal Government through its Modern Manufacturing Initiative to support the installation of specialised manufacturing infrastructure.
Vaxxas chief executive officer David Hoey describes the opening as a significant milestone for the biotech company.
"The Vaxxas Biomedical Facility will firmly position Australia at the forefront of vaccine technology innovation, thanks to the support of the Queensland State and Australian Federal Governments," Hoey says.
"The site will significantly increase our manufacturing capacity, creating new local and skilled jobs, while enabling Vaxxas to progress through late-stage clinical trials that will bring our first commercial vaccine products to the market.
"With several completed and successful human clinical trials involving more than 500 participants; ongoing Australian Phase I clinical studies for COVID-19 and seasonal influenza; and other vaccine studies targeting pandemic influenza funded by the United States Government and a measles-rubella study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, expected to start in 2024, Vaxxas’ vaccine patch technology platform is advancing rapidly toward commercialisation."
The Vaxxas team expects the Vaxxas Biomedical Facility to deliver a manufacturing process that can be potentially replicated by the company globally as demand for its proprietary vaccine patch technology grows.
The facility contains two independent Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), qualified aseptic cleanrooms, medical device manufacturing space, a device assembly cleanroom, and supporting infrastructure including laboratories and office space. Manufacturing will be conducted to standards that meet the requirements of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and other global health regulators.
Queensland Deputy Premier Dr Steven Miles officiated the opening.
"This world-renowned technology has the potential to play a vital role in pandemic preparedness because it allows vaccines to be deployed quickly and easily to our communities," the Deputy Premier says.
"Queensland is going from strength to strength as the place to work and invest in science, and Vaxxas is a fantastic example of a home-grown biotech success story that we need to retain here in Queensland. The opening of the Vaxxas Biomedical Facility in Brisbane’s Northshore is taking us one step closer to achieving that goal."
Last year Vaxxas won the Accenture Australia Award for Product Innovation at the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards in Brisbane.
"Because our technology delivers the vaccine direct to the abundant immune cells just under the skin surface, our research shows an equal or greater immune response can be achieved with as little as one sixth of the vaccine required for traditional needle injection," Vaxxas chief technology officer Dr Angus Forster said at the time.
"In a pandemic situation especially, this could mean more doses deployed, more quickly.
"We’re incredibly grateful for the support Vaxxas has had, and continues to receive from all levels of government, industry and the local life science sector."
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