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NZ to Get New RNA Development Platform

Through Budget 2022, the Government has announced NZ$ 40 million to create an RNA Technology Development Platform connecting what happens in the lab with what is needed in the field. This will look to build domestic capabilities, bring together those already working on RNA, address issues such as technology transfer, strengthen international research and development collaborations, and build commercial partnerships in areas such as production.

As a next step, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will seek agreement from Ministers on a set of high-level priorities that the Platform will be tasked to deliver. This will reflect the needs of the region’s research community as well as industry partners while contributing to the objective of supporting future pandemic preparedness for New Zealand.

Following this, MBIE will run an open and transparent procurement process which will identify a host or hosts to manage the Platform on a day-to-day basis. The host will be expected to engage with a wider consortium of partners to determine how to deliver on the identified priorities. Further details on this process are expected in due course.

Researchers and businesses working in the rapidly developing field of RNA technology will benefit from a new research and development platform, funded in Budget 2022.RNA is a potentially transformative technology. Its significant impact has already been observed 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 well-being and better health outcomes in other areas such as cancer, and autoimmune and neurological disorders.

The New Zealand Minister of Housing stated that RNA technology offers an opportunity to develop applications in animal health, agriculture and aquaculture. Thus, this investment is especially important to build our ability domestically to respond to future pandemics should we need to.

An investment of NZ$ 40.7 million over four years will allow New Zealand to:

  • develop its emerging strengths in this field, identify and address gaps in terms of capability and create high-value jobs
  • bridge engagement between researchers and industry partners to test and commercialise new approaches
  • support clinical testing
  • facilitate linkages with partners and institutions overseas.

It was noted that an RNA platform will enable New Zealand researchers to be at forefront of global efforts by increasing domestic and international collaborations. The aim is to ensure that New Zealand begins investing in this now, bringing together key players across the industry, and unlocking and developing international relationships. This will complement the investment the Government has already made in managing infectious diseases.

Occasionally, New Zealand needs vaccines that can’t be sourced from global suppliers, such as for meningococcal disease or rheumatic fever. Developing domestic RNA capability will help the nation better respond to the health needs of New Zealanders. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Strategic Science Investment Fund will support the RNA platform.

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