German biotechnology company BioNTech has signed a multi-year strategic partnership with the Australian state of Victoria to strengthen the local mRNA ecosystem.

The strategic partnership extends a Letter of Intent (LoI) signed in October last year to collaborate on the research and development of potential mRNA-based vaccines and therapies.

It aims to provide high-tech manufacturing capabilities and BioNTech’s expertise to create encouraging projects for further research and development in the mRNA space.

The State of Victoria has contracted BioNTech to set up an mRNA manufacturing facility, customised to address the needs of the local mRNA ecosystem.

The facility would support R&D and clinical-scale manufacturing of experimental mRNA-based medicines from the local ecosystem along with other third parties worldwide.

It will feature the company’s digital manufacturing units, dubbed BioNTainers, to manufacture mRNA and formulated drugs in one unit, and aseptic filling in the other.

The two BioNTainer units will be designed to provide manufacturing solutions in line with the local ecosystem’s needs.

The facility will be constructed near the Bundoora campus of La Trobe University in Melbourne, with ground-breaking planned for 2024.

BioNTech co-founder and CEO Ugur Sahin said: “The State of Victoria is one of the leading life sciences hubs in the Asia Pacific region, and we are looking forward to strengthening its cutting-edge research and development.

“It is important that innovation does not stop at the lab bench, but that it reaches patients quickly. We already conduct a number of clinical studies in Australia and are evaluating ways to contribute with more to come.”

In addition to the manufacturing facility, BioNTech will set up an mRNA Innovation Centre in Melbourne to support the development of the mRNA ecosystem in Victoria.

The company will identify and assess mRNA-focused research projects to support their clinical-stage development as potential product candidates.

BioNTech intends to advance the development of mRNA-based medicines and other products to treat up to 4,000 cancer patients in Australia and New Zealand over 10 years.

The German biotech company already has a clinical trial footprint in Australia with several investigational cancer therapies and is currently recruiting cancer patients for five of its investigational therapies across various drug classes.

BioNTech COO Sierk Poetting said: “The strategic partnership focuses on the empowerment of innovations in the field of mRNA by providing high-tech manufacturing capabilities and expertise to curate encouraging projects for further development.

“The BioNTainers we will be delivering is a lighthouse project tailored to the needs of the local mRNA ecosystem. The material manufactured there will support preclinical and clinical development of mRNA-based medicines.”