Potential for novel vaccines, treatments and diagnostics

A University of Otago immunologist and clinical microbiologist has welcomed the Government’s financial booster for RNA research and development, announced in Budget 2022.

Researchers and businesses working in the rapidly developing field of ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology will benefit from a new research and development platform.

Research Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods said RNA was a potentially "transformative" technology.

"We have already seen the important impact it can make through the development of safe and effective vaccines for Covid-19 to protect those who live here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"There is also a lot of potential to produce new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics that support wellbeing and better health outcomes in other areas such as cancer, and autoimmune and neurological disorders.

"RNA technology offers an opportunity to develop applications in animal health, agriculture and aquaculture."

She said the investment was especially important to build our ability domestically, to respond to future pandemics, should we need to.

The Government will invest $40.7million over the next four years, to allow New Zealand to develop its emerging strengths in this field, identify and address capability gaps and create high value jobs.

It also aimed to bridge engagement between researchers and industry partners to test and commercialise new approaches; support clinical testing; and enable linkages with partners and institutions overseas.

"New Zealand has incredible researchers and innovators. Through the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen how research and science have been vital to minimise the impact of the virus on our whanau.

"An RNA platform will help put New Zealand researchers at the forefront of global efforts by increasing domestic and international collaborations."

Occasionally, New Zealand needs vaccines that cannot be sourced from global suppliers, such as for meningococcal disease or rheumatic fever.

Having domestic RNA capability will help New Zealand better respond to health needs.

Associate Prof James Ussher.
Associate Prof James Ussher.
University of Otago immunologist and clinical microbiologist Associate Prof James Ussher said it was "incredibly exciting" to see this investment by the Government.

"RNA is a truly transformative technology.

"This investment, with its emphasis on developing a pipeline from research and development through to manufacturing, will build critical capacity and enable New Zealand's scientists and industry to develop cutting edge solutions for diseases of both global and national importance."

--  John Lewis


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