Australia plans to fund vaccine maker to reduce reliance on imports

Canberra plans to co-finance A $ 1 billion biopharmaceutical plant to reduce its dependence on essential medicine imports following Italy’s decision to block a shipment of Covid-19 vaccine to Australia .

He is also taking diplomatic action to build a “coalition of countries”, including New Zealand, Japan, Norway and Canada, aimed at preventing the EU from hamper vaccine exports.

Dan Tehan, Australia’s Minister for Trade, said collective pressure would help Brussels “realize that what it is doing is wrong”. He warned that any delay in Australia’s access to vaccines would affect the wider Pacific region, where Canberra has pledged to help vaccinate against Covid-19.

Tehan said he discussed his concerns with EU officials and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director general of the World Trade Organization.

Australia is also committed to achieving greater drug independence. The government has invited a private consortium led by UK developer John Laing to apply for seed funding as part of its A $ 1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing and Supply Chain Resilience Program (AU $ 1.1 billion). billion dollars) to design and build a biopharmaceutical manufacturing and storage facility.

The proposal, dubbed “The Resilience Partnership”, aims to increase access to medicines, vaccines and raw materials used by the pharmaceutical industry and reduce Australia’s heavy dependence on Chinese manufacturers and Indians.

Asked about the proposal, Karen Andrews, Australia’s Minister of Industry, told the Financial Times that Canberra is building its sovereign resilience in critical areas, including advanced manufacturing in response to Covid-19.

“Our government is always looking to work with industry and our researchers to ensure the nation’s sustainability, and that includes building our capacity and manufacturing capacity,” she added.

Canberra’s focus on the production and storage of medicines is part of a global overhaul by the nations of their addiction on imports of vaccines, critical minerals and personal protective equipment due to the pandemic.

Italy’s decision to block a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia further underscored the fragility of global supply chains.

A summary of the Resilience Partnership’s proposal, seen by the FT, shows that it has requested A $ 4 million seed funding to complete the project design, ministry engagement and willingness to consider a public-private partnership approach.

The initial plan is to build a 35,000 m² manufacturing, storage and biotechnology laboratory facility.

Australia imports more than three-quarters of essential medical products, worth A $ 16.6 billion in 2018, and more than 90% of available drugs are based on essential ingredients originating in India or China. Nearly 600 drugs are listed in shortage by the national therapeutic regulatory agency, 68 being identified as “critical”.

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The Australian Medical Association supports the proposal, which it hopes it can expand to include mRNA technology – an advanced technique that has delivered the BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines.

WADA vice president Chris Moy said the government has been foresight in planning for ‘vaccine nationalism’ by ensuring Australia retains a sovereign capacity to manufacture the Covid-19 vaccine through a partnership with the country’s largest pharmaceutical company, CSL.

“By taking an even broader and longer-term vision, it is hoped that he will also see the need for a sovereign capacity to manufacture essential drugs,” said Moy. “A post-Covid world and a new order may not be able to provide the guaranteed supply of cheap drugs to which we have been accustomed.”

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