New South Wales is set to become a global vaccines leader with a ‘bioscience alliance’ of top universities to boost the development of mRNA research and the study of new strains of COVID-19, according to researchers on the project.

mRNA has the potential to treat a myriad of diseases and with a $15 million cash boost from the NSW government’s Australia is well placed to become one of the world’s elite hubs of bio-engineering.

“Future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases,” Professor Pall Thoradson of the NSW Vice Chancellor’s Committee told Central News.

“The NSW Government has an ambitious plan to become Australia’s mRNA vaccine manufacturing hub and a global RNA industry leader.

“The bioscience alliance focusses the efforts of universities to achieve this plan.”

While further research is needed, the future of mRNA technology is bright, with a much broader spectrum of diseases potentially becoming treatable or vaccinated against.

Unlike traditional vaccines, where weakened or inactive components of a disease trigger an immune response in your body, mRNA vaccines provide your body with the instructions to make proteins that treat, or prevent disease. 

With much of the world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA research has been pushed to the forefront of vaccine development.

It has already been used in clinical trials to protect against the Zika virus, rabies, influenza, and recently has been used by both Moderna and Pfizer to manufacture vaccines for COVID-19. Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have success rates of 94.1 per cent and 95 per cent respectively, and combined have produced over 3 billion doses worldwide, making the two mRNA-based vaccines two of the most used and effective vaccines worldwide.

It is a significant step in building the capacities for our future industries.

The $15 million government investment will go towards all 14 members of NSW VCC, with a focus on UNSW, UTS, University of Sydney and Macquarie University. Funding will also reach a select group of hospitals and institutes to help carry out research, with hopes of NSW becoming a global leader in mRNA research.

“The NSW RNA Production and Research Network will be supported immediately by a $15 million grant from the NSW Government,” MP for Vaucluse, Gabrielle Upton told Central News.

“By investing in RNA research, the NSW Government will reinforce NSW as a world leader in combatting infectious diseases. It is also a significant step in building the capacities for our future industries.”

John Mattick, Professor of RNA biology at the school of biotechnology at UNSW, said there were many potential diseases that could be treated.

“mRNA could possibly treat a large range of diseases, it’s been tested against cancer cells and will be used against new strains of COVID-19,” he said. “It’s hard to say what could be achieved in the next five years as it’s very broad.” 

Professor Mattick, and the research team at UNSW will lead the other members of the NSWVCC through research and testing, with the NSWVCC overlooking the operation.

Main image of Prof Pall Thoradson supplied by NSW Gov, vaccine image by Artem Podrez/Pexels