The federal government has finalised its deal with biotechnology company Moderna, paving the way for an mRNA manufacturing facility to be built in Melbourne. When can we expect the factory to open, and how much will it be making?
The year when the facility will start making vaccines. Moderna says they’ll be starting to build the facility by the end of this year, with a view to producing vaccines by the end of 2024.
They’ll be making vaccines against respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and possibly others.
The maximum number of mRNA vaccines the facility will be able to produce in a year. That’s nearly two million a week – for contrast, CSL in Melbourne could produce just over one million AstraZeneca COVID vaccines in a week.
The 100 million cap is likely to only be reached during pandemics – in general, the facility is expected to produce more like 25 million vaccines annually.
The estimated number of “highly-skilled” full-time staff who will be required to operate the facility once it’s built. Manufacture of mRNA vaccines is a different ball game to traditional vaccines – it uses different materials and biological processes. While we’re not starting from scratch (there’s another facility capable of mRNA production currently operating in Adelaide, for instance) there will need to be some training and education involved.
The approximate amount of money the government is investing in the facility. We don’t know the exact cost, but it’s estimated by The Australian to be around $2 billion. The Victorian government had previously invested $50 million in an mRNA manufacture facility, and the federal government is also putting “up to $25 million” into mRNA infrastructure research.
The number of vaccines currently in Moderna’s mRNA pipeline – that is, mRNA vaccines that are being developed by the company. These vaccines all need to get through a raft of safety tests and clinical trials before being used publicly, so it’s unlikely that all 28 will end up on the market.
Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.
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