Influenza vaccine manufacturing facility coming to Melbourne

Tuesday, 17 November, 2020

Influenza vaccine manufacturing facility coming to Melbourne

A new high-tech vaccine manufacturing facility will soon be developed in Melbourne to help secure Australia’s long-term supply of critical health products, including pandemic influenza vaccines and life-saving antivenoms.

As part of an agreement with the Australian Government, influenza vaccine provider Seqirus (a subsidiary of CSL) will construct the world-class manufacturing facility at the Melbourne Airport Business Park to supply influenza vaccines to Australia and the rest of the world. Set to replace the company’s existing, ageing production facilities in Parkville, it is expected to be the largest influenza vaccine manufacturing facility — and the only one to utilise innovative cell-based technology — in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Providing safe and effective influenza vaccines is essential in securing our defences against serious public health threats,” said CSL’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Paul Perreault.

“The facility will be an important addition to our global influenza manufacturing supply chain, incorporating the technology platform used in our Holly Springs, North Carolina, facility. Cell-based influenza vaccine technology offers many advantages over the existing process including being more scalable and offering faster production — particularly important in the case of influenza pandemics.”

The facility will also manufacture Seqirus’s proprietary adjuvant, MF59 — a substance added to some vaccines to improve immune response and to reduce the amount of antigen needed for each vaccine, enabling more doses to be manufactured more rapidly. In addition, the facility will produce products important to Australia’s public health needs — including antivenom for Australian snakes, spiders and marine creatures, and the world’s only human vaccine for Q fever. Seqirus is currently the only company making these products in Australia.

“This agreement cements Australia’s long-term sovereign medical capabilities, giving us the ability to develop vaccines when we need them,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Just as major defence equipment must be ordered well in advance, this is an investment in our national health security against future pandemics.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Seqirus will invest $800 million in the development of the facility, with ongoing capital investment over the coming years. The Victorian Government has also supported the procurement of suitable land for Seqirus, with the project set to secure more than 1000 local jobs, generate export contracts and ensure continuing support for hundreds of organisations estimated to be worth $300 million to the local supply chain, helping to boost the state’s economic recovery.

Hunt said the new facility will “guarantee Australian health security against pandemic influenza for the next two decades”, ensuring that Australia can “mass produce vaccines against future flu pandemics, as well as continuing onshore production of seasonal flu vaccines, Q fever vaccines and antivenoms” — products that would otherwise need to be sourced from overseas. The highly specialised production facility is expected to be operational by 2026, with the contract for supply of these critical products extending to 2036.

Artist’s impression of the vaccine manufacturing facility.

“CSL has a proud history of contributing to Australia’s public health needs and this investment will write an exciting new chapter in our story,” said Seqirus General Manager Stephen Marlow.

“While the facility is located in Australia, it will have a truly global role. Demand for flu vaccines continues to grow each year, in recognition of the importance of influenza vaccination programs. This investment will boost our capacity to ensure as many people as possible — right across the world — can access flu vaccines in the future.”

The news comes just a few days after the Victorian Government announced it will establish an Australian Institute for Infectious Disease in Melbourne’s Parkville biomedical precinct to lead the fight against future pandemics.

The Victorian Budget 2020–21 includes an investment of $155 million towards the $550 million institute, with The University of Melbourne and its partners contributing a further $150 million and the remaining funds to be sought from the federal government. Once operational, the institute could support up to 5000 jobs in the biomedical sector, including up to 850 jobs at the institute itself.

The institute aims to create the largest centre of expertise in the Indo–Pacific region, establishing Victoria as a global leader in understanding infectious disease — accelerating research into the prevention of future pandemics and rapidly developing treatments. It will be designed to deliver everything researchers need to detect, analyse, manage and treat infectious diseases, supercharging the ongoing efforts of Victoria’s 12 medical research institutes to combat coronavirus.

The institute will include next-generation laboratories and high-containment facilities that will help researchers improve our understanding of infectious diseases, with a robotic biobank facility that will ensure international best practice for specimen storage in large-scale clinical trials. A cross-disciplinary Centre for Infectious Diseases Modelling will allow the development of more sophisticated models to predict disease patterns, while a new facility at The Royal Melbourne Hospital will facilitate early-stage clinical trials to quickly develop vaccines and treatments.

The Australian Institute of Infectious Disease will be the new home of the Burnet Institute and will be located next to the Doherty Institute, allowing the Doherty Institute to expand its research operations. The initiative will also bring together the brightest minds from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, The University of Melbourne and CSL, to ensure Victoria and Australia are prepared for future challenges.

“Victoria leads the world in medical research and is the natural home for an infectious diseases institute to protect our state and our nation against future pandemics,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“We’ve only got through this pandemic by backing our scientists and researchers. We’ll continue to do that and create high-skilled jobs right here in Melbourne.”

Top image caption: The syringe-filling process at Sequirus’s Holly Springs facility.

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