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Push for Queensland to take the lead on domestic vaccine manufacture

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Deputy Premier Steven Miles has brought together experts and stakeholders keen for Queensland to build on its reputation as a global biotech hub.

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As Australia continues to source supplies of COVID-19 vaccines from overseas manufacturers, bolstered by increasing domestic production, the Palaszczuk government wants to ensure Queensland is well positioned for future growth.

The federal government this week announced Australia had secured 25 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from the United States, saying it may also pave the way for local production of mRNA vaccines.

The US biotech company expressed interest in setting up an Australian base.

“We look forward to continuing discussions with Australia about establishing potential local manufacturing opportunities,” Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said.

Miles, who is state development minister and a former health minister, this week hosted a Biomedical Industry Ministerial Roundtable at Parliament House. Participants included cervical cancer vaccine co-creator Professor Ian Frazer, the head of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Professor Fabienne Mackay, Vaxxas CEO David Hoey, and Dr Kym Baker, general manager of Patheon (Thermo Fisher Scientific).

Queensland’s COVID-19 response has been making headlines, and with good reason. Local companies Ellume and AnteoTech have commercialised COVID-19 tests, the University of Queensland continues to work on a COVID-19 vaccine and recently announced a new facility to support early-stage development and manufacturing of vaccines, while Vaxxas is developing needle-free vaccine patches.

Implicit Bioscience is trialling an anti-inflammatory drug as a potential treatment for severely-ill COVID-19 patients, the Translational Research Institute has plans for vaccine manufacturing, organisations are starting to collaborate more on joint ventures, and there is even potential for Queensland to support more clinical trials while global capacity is constrained.

Miles said Australia, and particularly Queensland, could play a greater role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting biomedical research and development long-term.

“Really, the Commonwealth should be coordinating all of our supply chains, analysing which don’t have sufficient diversity, and deciding which state to put what in,” Miles said.

“But we aren’t waiting around for that to happen. We want Queensland to be Australia’s lead vaccine manufacturing site.”

Organisations, companies and governments in other states have similar plans, and the federal budget set aside an unspecified amount to boost sovereign vaccine manufacturing. The Queensland budget will be handed down on June 15.

More than 2.8 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country as the government continues the rollout of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs.

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