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Shot in the arm for new vaccine manufacturing facility in Brisbane

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The Palaszczuk Government has quietly given the green light to a planned $60 million expansion of the Translational Research Institute at Woolloongabba, a decision likely to accelerate development of one of the state’s most important health research precincts.

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The move could also pave the way for a big improvement in Australia’s capacity to develop and manufacture vaccines at home rather than have researchers forced to go overseas for proper facilities.

Deputy Premier and State Development Minister Steven Miles has given special permission to construct the institute’s second building , dubbed TRI2, at a site at Cornwall St, currently occupied by the Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence.

TRI2 will house an advanced manufacturing facility to support clinical trials and encourage medical technology start-ups to take their product to market and find commercial success.

The institute will invest $20 million in its development and is asking the Commonwealth and Queensland Government to each provide matching funding.

It says the new facility will fill a gap in infrastructure for medical technology scale ups in Australia.

“The gap means companies are receiving manufacturing equipment and recruiting to commence Phase II trials, but they do not have the facilities to proceed and have to take their innovations overseas, setting Australia back,” the institute states in material promoting the project.

The proposed development will fall within the so-called Boggo Road Priority Development Area in which the Government has taken over planning powers to smooth the way for projects associated with its $5.4 billion Cross River Rail.

It will also need to be assessed against the interim land use plan for the PDA.

However, it has cleared one big hurdle with Miles granting a ministerial infrastructure delegation over the project, saying he is satisfied that the building is “appropriate for the site and the locality”.

Immunologist and founding CEO of the institute Professor Ian Frazer says the new facility will boost Australia’s capacity to make vaccines onshore.

“It’s really exciting that we are now contemplating building TRI2 which will allow us not only to develop vaccines here but take them to the stage where we could make them here and therefore get them into the clinic without having to go overseas to get them manufactured,” he said in a recent social media post.

The institute says the TRI2 project will created 1400 constructions jobs and contribute about $1 billion in economic and health benefits.

However, the plan does have its critics, with local Queensland Greens MP Amy MacMahon saying residents are concerned about the impact of the project.

McMahon said using a ministerial infrastructure designation to speed the project through “serves as a path for developers to circumvent the planning scheme and other local instruments”.

“The purpose of the proposal, for a private medical research facility, also indicates that there are significant gaps in government funding for public medical research facilities,” she said.

 

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