It could be up to four years before mRNA vaccines are produced in Australia, under a process being led by the federal government.
- mRNA technology is used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which need to be imported
- The federal government is exploring Australia’s capacity to produce mRNA vaccines locally
- Officials say it could be up to four years away, depending on the chosen site
The cutting-edge technology is used for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, both of which need to imported from overseas.
The government released a so-called “approach to market” last month, inviting manufacturers to detail their potential to develop the vaccines in Australia instead.
But David Luchetti from the Department of Industry said the time to production would depend on whether a facility was adapted from an existing site or built from scratch, known as brownfield or greenfield sites respectively.
“We think that establishing a facility at a brownfields site would take somewhere from a year to two years, once again depending on the nature of the work that needed to be done to that site,” he told a Senate estimates hearing.
“For a greenfields site, it could take three years, four years, because you’re starting afresh, the facility needs to get all the regulatory approvals that it needs to obtain through the process.
“So it’s difficult to identify just how quickly it could happen, but we think it could be as short as a year if it’s a brownfields site; it could be three years, maybe a little bit longer for a greenfields site.”
Mr Luchetti said the department was expecting between five to 15 submissions as part of the approach to market process.
‘Detailed conversations’ with Moderna about local production
Mr Luchetti said the goverment was in discussions with Moderna about its potential to establish an Australian manufacturing facility.
“They’ve publicly said that they have interest in doing that, so we’re starting that, entering into quite detailed conversations with Moderna about what their needs are, what they’re looking to do,” he said.
“And so there is a possibility that we could end up with a Moderna outcome and we could end up with a domestic outcome.
“But we haven’t got to that point yet of bringing those two streams of work together and providing that to government.”
Mr Luchetti said his department was also in close contact with the Victorian government, which announced $50 million earlier this year to “kickstart” domestic mRNA manufacturing.
“We have an open dialogue about the possibilities and understanding the capabilities that are on offer in Victoria, and also sharing what we’re trying to achieve through this process also,” he said.