Scientists in PPE, working on COVID-19 in Kirby Institute's PC3 lab. Credit: UNSW/Richard Freeman

$5M for a Kirby Institute-led RNA consortium

News | Published on 15 Mar 2023

Announced on Wednesday 13 March 2023, $5 million from the Medical Research Future Fund has been awarded to a Kirby Institute-led consortium that will boost development of RNA vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 and other health threats in Australia.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought about rapid advances in mRNA and RNA development, and we saw particular success with the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, demonstrating significant potential of RNA technology as a tool against other health threats,” says Kirby Institute Director Scientia Professor Anthony Kelleher, who is chief investigator on the project. “We welcome this funding from the MRFF, which will enable us to harness and scale up RNA technology in Australia.”

The consortium, called BRIDGE (Bringing RNA Innovations through the Developmental Gap Effectively), is an academic industry partnership, bringing together the Kirby Institute, Medicines Development for Global Health, Scientia Clinical Trial Research, the Garvan Institute for Medical Research, UNSW RNA Institute, along with community representatives on the Clinical Development Advisory Committee.

Independently, these institutions are leaders in RNA and drug development. BRIDGE will leverage this existing expertise and infrastructure to collaboratively boost innovation, rigorously assess potential products, and progress mRNA vaccines and RNA therapeutics from preclinic development through to first-in-human and early phase clinical trials.

The partnership will also facilitate greater access to RNA vaccines and therapeutics for low- and middle-income countries through enabling licensing of successful products through Medicines Development for Global Health so that they can be manufactured and distributed cost-effectively.

Prof Kelleher says that through this model, BRIDGE will not only enhance capacity and capability within Australia, but improve global health and health security. “We are confident that through this consortium, we will help to ensure that Australian researchers remain at the forefront of health and medical research, and strengthen our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future health emergencies, ensuring equitable health access to medical innovations,” he said.

Other Kirby/UNSW CIs include: Prof Gail Matthews (Kirby), Prof Matthew Law (Kirby), Dr Chantelle Ahlenstiel (Kirby), Prof Pall Thordarson (UNSW Science), Prof Mark Sullivan and Prof Chris Goodnow (Garvan/UNSW), Dr Deborah Burnett (Garvan/UNSW).