New Sydney RNA facility offers Covid-19, cancer hope

UNSW's new RNA Institute is designed to scale-up promising RNA and nanoparticle drug candidates. Photo: UNSW/Facebook.

By TILEAH DOBSON

A brand-new Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) research facility has opened in Sydney, offering the hope of new treatments for Covid-19, various cancers and other medical conditions.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) RNA Institute, set to be Australia’s leading institute for RNA science and therapeutics, aims to translate the state’s bioscience’s potential into improvements to our health and quality of life.

Therapeutics which could emerge from the facility include vaccines for emerging diseases, like Covid-19, along with treatments for other infections, cancers, and rare genetic and neurodegenerative diseases.

The institute also hopes to serve as a cornerstone of an ‘RNA ecosystem’ by collaborating with other research institutions.

What started from a $25 million investment has now led to the point where NSW has the capability to research, develop and manufacture RNA-based therapeutics at a local level.

As he formally opened the labs on Monday, NSW Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Stuart Ayres, was thrilled with the development.

“This is a significant milestone in the creation of the significant RNA ecosystem we are establishing here in NSW,” Ayres said.

The new facility is well timed, with the world still in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. Video: UNSW/YouTube.

“A thriving NSW-based RNA industry underpinned by world-leading research talent will attract international investment and bring companies from all over the world to create high priority jobs in NSW within the $2 billion medical technology growth industry,” he said.

NSW Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology, Alister Henskens – who is also Minister for Skills and Training – shared his sentiments, opining that onshore development of novel RNA technologies was the best course of action for NSW and Australia, especially post-pandemic.

“RNA-based therapeutics can also be applied to a rapidly expanding category of drugs, diagnostics and treatments for other diseases including cancer and autoimmune disorders,” Hensken said.

“Working together with other university partners in the NSW Bioscience Alliance, research into these novel technologies will allow us to not only lead the way in the fight against disease, but to boost productivity through innovation and create jobs for the future.”

Alister Henskens (left) has given his full support to the UNSW RNA Institute. Photo: Alister Henskens MP/Facebook.

The institution would help promote collaboration between researchers, said UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs.

“UNSW is home to some of the best scientific minds in the world in this field. In creating this Institute, we have brought together scientists, engineers, and medical researchers to work on key bottlenecks at the frontier of RNA science and medicine,” Brungs said.

“We are proud to collaborate with the NSW Government, industry and academic partners to drive the development of an industry which is going to have a profoundly positive impact on human health.”

The institute will now begin conducting pre-clinical trials for the treatment of Covid-19 and cancer using RNA-based therapeutics manufactured within the state.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor and sub-editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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