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No location, timeframe finalised for Moderna mRNA vaccine facility yet

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Pharmaceutical group Moderna has looked at several sites in Victoria for its new mRNA vaccine manufacturing and finishing facility, but no location will be chosen until the deal with the federal and Andrews governments has been finalised.

Moderna has agreed to produce 25 million mRNA vaccines a year from 2024 and up to 100 million a year if needed, as well as base its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Melbourne and bring clinical trials and research and development to Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison meeting with managing director of Moderna for Australia and New Zealand, Michael Azrak, on Tuesday.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Moderna Australia and New Zealand general manager Michael Azrak said he was thrilled the company was “pitching tent” in the country.

“We’ve played a critical role during the pandemic. And as we’ve all learned, pandemics can come at the time we least expected and having preparedness is absolutely critical,” he said. “I’m extremely excited by the opportunities for Moderna to be part of the R&D [research and development] community across Australia and especially Melbourne.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said mRNA vaccines would be a big part of the future of medicine.

“With Moderna, we have a partner that ensures that their IP [intellectual property], their knowledge, their advances in medical science can be brought here and be part of an ecosystem here that will see Australia also be a leader in this area,” he said.

Victoria’s Acting Premier, James Merlino, said Melbourne was the logical place for the mRNA facility in Australia, with 40 per cent of the country’s medical and biotech companies based in the city.

“This is a massive game-changer. And to have that manufacturing capacity, the research capacity right here in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia is a great thing,” he said.

“This will create 1000 jobs – 500 in construction, 500 ongoing – but beyond that, it saves lives, whether it’s dealing with a pandemic, treatment of cancer [or] treatment of rare diseases.”

Mr Azrak said there was no date yet for the completion of the facility, or first locally produced doses, but he hoped it would be “as soon as practically possible”.

“That’s the goal that we all have together, to really mobilise this as quickly as possible,” he said.

Neither the Prime Minister nor Mr Merlino could say how much money the governments had committed to secure the deal, citing commercial in confidence. But Mr Merlino said both the Commonwealth and state governments had put money forward to secure the program.

“There is investment by the state and the Commonwealth government to make sure we can get this deal done,” he said.

The federal government had been negotiating with Moderna for months on a potential agreement. Mr Morrison said the deal took meticulous work.

“This arrangement is extraordinary. But we’ve got it right. We’ve spent the time to get it right,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the deal, along with $25 million in funding for mRNA-specific trials, would help build Australia’s medical research and manufacturing capability and help make the country a global centre for mRNA research.

“The fact that we have a regional headquarters and the ability to support our regional partners across the Pacific and South-East Asia, says that we’re committed to the region over the long term,” he said.

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