Demand booms for experimental mRNA from UQ BASE

TIA has supported a team from The University of Queensland that is now the biggest supplier of experimental mRNA vaccines and therapies in Australia, with burgeoning demand from research and industry.

Photo credit to UQ

The BASE facility is producing mRNA at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology for pre-clinical research on vaccines, cancers and autoimmune diseases.

Director Associate Professor Tim Mercer said demand had escalated since BASE was established with three researchers 18 months ago, with forecasts of growth to about 40 people this time next year.

“We are now at the epicentre for mRNA production in Australia, providing access to high-quality mRNA at the scale needed to support early research and pre-clinical studies,” Dr Mercer said.

“We’ve built more than 50 experimental vaccines and therapies, supplying mRNA to 34 labs at UQ alone.”

Dr Mercer said that mRNA vaccines and therapies work differently to other drugs.

“mRNA encodes the instructions to make the drug, so rather than delivering the drug, mRNA instead delivers the instructions for the patient’s body to make the drug,” he said.

“The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines encoded part of the viral spike protein so when injected, these mRNA instructed the patient’s cells to make the spike protein which then trained the patient’s immune system.”

Dr Mercer says mRNA can also be used to encode different vaccines and therapies and treat a wide range of diseases, including cancer and autoimmunity.

“Scientists are excited that mRNA provides a new way to treat disease, and this is driving high demand for mRNA.”

The research is the focus of a story on the ABC. View it here: