CSIRO opens 'missing link' lab to developing Australian vaccine pipeline

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CSIRO has opened a new $23.1 million lab in Melbourne that aims to bolster Australia's ability to produce vaccines and drug treatments.

Researchers at the National Vaccine and Therapeutics Lab work to develop vaccine and drug candidates into products that can be manufactured in large quantities for clinical trials.

The new lab follows a successful pilot facility in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when CSIRO scaled up vaccine candidates that had been developed onshore as part of a national strategy to combat this emerging threat.

The facility was completed with funding from the federal and Victorian Governments and was officially opened today by industry minister Er Husic. The facility also received $1.1 million from MTPConnect’s Growth Centre Project Fund.

CSIRO’s chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said, “We created the pilot facility in anticipation of disease 'X' - an expected but unknown disease that might impact us.  It  turned out to be COVID-19. The past two years have highlighted the importance for Australia to have a robust sovereign capability in the development of vaccines and therapeutics, so we scaled it up into one of our shared National Labs.

“The problem facing our biomedical industry has been that most vaccine and drug candidates needed to be sent overseas to be produced in large quantities for clinical trials, adding burdensome costs that have crushed many Australian businesses and researchers as the invention languishes on the lab bench.

“This new shared National Lab will help Aussie companies bridge that ‘valley of death’ – the gap between the lab bench and making a product that’s having an impact on people’s lives.”

The new lab boosts Australian translational research capacity and advanced manufacturing in biotechnology.

Research director for biomedical manufacturing, Professor Susie Nilsson, said the facility was available to companies and researchers around the country as another of CSIRO’s National Labs.

“This new lab has been designed and constructed in accordance with the current licensing requirements of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration to produce a variety of biologics, including recombinant proteins and peptides, and viral products,” said Professor Nilsson.

“Our team at the lab will produce drugs in partnership with local industry and enable our partners to progress to both phase one and phase two clinical trials in Australia, and also has the necessary accreditation for Australian companies to participate in clinical trials globally.”