When CSL was first established in 1916 it was to help our nation, isolated by war, to secure our medical supply chains and sovereign capability. Now over 100 years later and a global leader in biotech, CSL is manufacturing 50 million doses of the straZeneca COVID-19 vaccine right here on our shores.
They will begin being rolled out from the end of March, joining Pfizer’s vaccine, which is already being administered, as part of our program to keep Australians safe and protect our way of life.
Pfizer’s successful mRNA vaccine has sparked a lot of discussion about Australia’s capability to produce these cutting-edge types of treatments.
The reality is producing mRNA vaccines at scale is a brand new challenge the entire world is grappling with. But, just as we did during the height of the pandemic with manufacturing surgical masks and ventilators, we’re not taking “that’s impossible” for an answer.We have been exploring practical options to mobilise the capability of local businesses and researchers to future proof our nation when it comes to vaccines.
Because just as CSL was born out of necessity, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all view sovereign capability and needs.
An audit has identified a number of companies in Australia with mRNA production capability and we are working with them to explore if that capability could be scaled up in the future.
And, importantly, mRNA vaccine production has also been identified as a growth opportunity in our medical products National Priority Manufacturing road map that released today.
This road map will guide our investments in the sector under the $1.3bn Modern Manufacturing Initiative, with businesses now able to apply for support to turn their great ideas into commercial realities, and integrate them into domestic and global supply chains.
And while mRNA vaccines are clearly an important challenge and opportunity – they are just one of the technologies that have been highlighted in the road map where Australian manufacturers have an opportunity to scale-up and create jobs.
Our investment opportunities include smart monitoring devices and diagnostics, personalised implants and bionics, high-value pharmaceuticals, biologics and complementary medicines, cutting-edge treatments like regenerative medicine and genomics, as well as digital integrated products and platforms.
We are focusing on high-value opportunities that will position medical products manufacturers for long-term success, building on our world-leading reputation in the medical products sector.
This isn’t about a short term fix – we want to scale up production for the long term to ensure our fledgling biotech and medtech companies can become the CSL or Cochlear of the future.
For an optimistic insight into that future (and evidence of why medical products are one of our manufacturing priority sectors) it’s worth googling:
“Axcelda Pen”, an incredible stem cell 3D printing device that treats osteoarthritis.
“Artrya”, a Medtech company using deep learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to detect the risk of heart disease; or
“Anatomics”, which has developed the world’s most advanced polymer tissue scaffold to manufacture state-of-the-art craniofacial implants.
These are just the tip of our medical technology iceberg – with more than 500 Aussie medtech companies working to develop new products and services.
Just as CSL did more than 100 years ago, we are seizing the opportunity to create the foundations for a healthier, more secure Australia a century from now.
Karen Andrews is the federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.
Published in The Australian.