2021-10-06| Asia-PacificCOVID-19

BioCina Acquires Pfizer Manufacturing Facility in Australia to Produce mRNA Vaccines

by Joy Lin
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Australia aspires to make mRNA vaccines on its own instead of just importing them. Now, BioCina, a local biotech is out to help the country realize this goal.

BioCina is a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) specializing in the development and cGMP manufacture of microbial-based biologics, which include proteins, mRNA, vaccines, and biosimilars. On Tuesday it completed the acquisition of a biologics manufacturing facility from Hospira Adelaide Pty Ltd, an affiliate of Pfizer. 

The acquisition will give BioCina the capability to manufacture cGMP-grade plasmid DNA. Plasmid DNA is produced via microbial fermentation and is an important component of gene therapies such as mRNA vaccines and CAR-T cells.

“With the current global pandemic, we have seen the need to develop fast, innovative life-saving medicines with world-class science and superior quality to our partnered clients. This is at the core of the BioCina team’s capability, experience, and passion,” said Ian Wisenberg, CEO of BioCina.

“BioCina has a strategic focus and significant investment in mRNA process development and manufacturing for vaccines and therapeutics to support solutions using this mRNA platform for our clients.”

The company spun out from the University of Adelaide in 1982 and was acquired by the Bridgewest group in 2020.

Related Article: Sanofi Abandons mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccine Plan but Indian Biotechs March On


An Australian Facility that could Finally Manufacture mRNA Vaccines

The commercial plant is approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Health Canada, and the US FDA — the only one of its kind in Australia.  

Its reputation will help BioCina’s bid to manufacture mRNA vaccines in Australia, something the federal government is scrambling to achieve.

News of BioCina’s acquisition was welcomed by Stephen Patterson, Minister for Trade and Investment.

“The State Government is committed to putting the health and medical industries sector at the forefront of South Australia’s economic growth, as one of our nine key sectors. Our sector plan looks forward to 2030 with a target to more than double the HMI economic contribution to South Australia, increasing its value from $2.3 billion to $5 billion,” Minister Patterson said.

“As Australia’s leading CDMO focused on delivering critical mRNA manufacturing capabilities, we are delighted to welcome BioCina formally to Adelaide as a flagship of the national mRNA landscape,” he added.

Australia currently has to resort to importing mRNA vaccines from overseas. The country has ordered 60 million Pfizer doses and 50 million Moderna doses for 2022. On the other hand, the AstraZeneca version, which uses non-replicating spike proteins from the COVID-19 virus, is made by local manufacturer CSL in Victoria.  


Pfizer Transfers Program to Europe

According to Wisenberg, Pfizer was manufacturing filgrastim or pegylated filgrastim in the plant. Filgrastim and its pegylated form are treatments that stimulate the production of white blood cells, the number of which is typically reduced following chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS.

“Pfizer made the decision to transfer that program to Europe, to their facility in Croatia, in Zagreb, and divest the facility,” said Wisenberg, explaining how BioCina ended up buying the plant.

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