As mRNA demand surges, Australia and US launch new facilities

Assoc Prof Tim Mercer and researcher Dae Jong Han, UQ

As demand for mRNA continues to surge, two new facilities have been launched to boost production in Australia and the US.

Work is underway at The University of Queensland’s (UQ) BASE facility which has become Australia’s leading provider of mRNA for research and pilot studies since its launch in 2021.

The Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) National Critical Research Infrastructure scheme will contribute $4.3 million, with Sanofi and UQ each committing $1 million, and the Queensland Government $250,000.

BASE director, Associate Professor Tim Mercer said the project will cement the facility’s footing in the growing mRNA industry, which was worth $55 billion in 2022 and tipped to grow to $107 billion globally by 2030.

“This will provide the BASE facility with end-to-end capabilities for mRNA vaccine development, from their initial design through to clinical trials – allowing the next generation of mRNA vaccines and therapies to be built in Queensland,” Dr Mercer said. “We aim to begin manufacturing mRNA for Phase I clinical trials in 2024.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry added that having the capability to produce clinical trial quality mRNA in Australia was a crucial step towards pandemic preparedness and realising the economic benefits from research.

Centralised mRNA hub in San Diego

In the US, TriLink BioTechnologies has launched its Analytical Sciences Center of Excellence (ASCE) hub, hoping to minimise the delays and unexpected costs associated with outsourced testing to multiple laboratories.

With this expansion, TriLink aspires to build on its comprehensive method development for construct-specific assays with new instrumentation to improve nuclear magnetic resonance, next-generation sequencing, and lipid nanoparticle characterisation. The centre will also be responsible for developing novel analytical methodologies, including mRNA fingerprinting and sequencing.

“We continue to witness exciting growth in nucleic acid therapeutics – and rapid expansion calls for rapid innovation,” added Kevin Lynch, TriLink’s VP and GM of GMP Operations. “The ASCE’s centralised analytical capabilities and development of analytical methodologies for the characterisation of nucleic acids will advance the industry as we continue to find ways to meet the needs of developers working on life-saving therapeutics.”

Image shows: Associate Professor Tim Mercer (right) with researcher Dae Jong Han. (C) UQ.

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