The NSW Government has taken another step towards fast tracking the world first mRNA vaccines for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Lumpy Skin Disease, inking a deal with US biotechnology company Tiba Biotech.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said today marks an important milestone towards securing the vaccine technology that will protect Australia’s $28.7 billion livestock industry.
“The NSW Nationals in Government are taking the threat of FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease extremely seriously, and this milestone is another step forward in preparing for a potential outbreak,” Mr Toole said.
“I have now written to vaccine manufacturers to take up my challenge to develop both vaccines ready for use and manufacture in NSW by August 1 next year.
“COVID-19 demonstrated to us that all possible avenues in developing vaccines must be explored and we will leave no stone unturned.”
Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the agreement with Tiba Biotech gives NSW another path towards developing mRNA vaccines for FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease.
“It is critical that we develop mRNA vaccines for FMD and Lumpy Skin as quickly as possible to protect our State’s livestock sector,” Mr Saunders said.
“The threat of FMD is ongoing and there are concerns Lumpy Skin Disease could enter northern Australia this coming wet season, so it’s critical we continue to do what we can as quickly as we can.
“Current FMD vaccines use the virus itself, and there is yet to be an approved vaccine for use in Australia for Lumpy Skin Disease, so creating mRNA vaccines to combat either disease would be a game-changer for the industry.
“mRNA vaccines are cheaper and quicker to produce, highly effective and very safe.
“Because they are fully synthetic and do not require any animal or microbial products, they do not carry with them the same risks as traditionally derived vaccines.”
Tiba co-founder Peter McGrath said the company was pleased to be working in partnership with government, industry and researchers to protect Australia’s vital livestock industry and food security.
“Our next generation RNA technology is able to safely and efficiently deliver vaccines for both human and animal health needs and has demonstrated more practical storage requirements than existing RNA technologies,” Mr McGrath said.
Meat and Livestock Australia managing director Jason Strong said mRNA vaccines had additional benefits for the livestock sector.
“This type of vaccine technology may not require the longer testing and approval processes required for conventional vaccine development and importation as it does not use animal products,” Mr Strong said.
“That means we can use it to provide faster responses to outbreaks, enable eradication and return to freedom status – and market access – sooner.”
The pilot program is part of a $65 million investment from the NSW Government to prepare for and prevent exotic animal diseases, which brings the total investment in biosecurity this year alone to $229 million – the biggest biosecurity investment by a single jurisdiction on exotic pest and disease control.