Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) Development Platform

Ensuring New Zealand has well-connected and world-class research capability to strengthen the use and commercialisation of RNA technology

The rapid development of mRNA vaccines for the Covid-19 pandemic exemplifies the revolutionary potential of mRNA technology. Taking just 63 days to reach clinical trials, the vaccines demonstrated RNA technology’s capacity to develop safe, effective vaccines at speed.

The novelty in RNA lies in its ability to shift the most challenging element of manufacture to the natural bioreactor – the human body. This ground‐breaking discovery quickly led to the realization that more broadly, RNA‐based therapeutics offer new potential to go beyond vaccines and infectious diseases to treat other conditions such as cancer, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular conditions, and autoimmune diseases.

The establishment of an Aotearoa/New Zealand RNA technology platform will capitalize on the exciting opportunities initially presented by mRNA to build scientific expertise, capability, and self‐sufficiency in an end‐to‐end RNA technology platform for Aotearoa/New Zealand. This science and technology platform will support New Zealand capability in the design and production of RNA therapeutics and vaccines, bring together the best cross‐disciplinary and cross‐institutional experts and teams, connect New Zealand researchers to relevant international efforts and developments and further assist New Zealand companies to deliver new RNA products and services. Ultimately it will provide a new degree of resilience for New Zealand, as we would have the ability to rapidly develop and manufacture a vaccine for New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours in the case of a future global pandemic.

The Platform is co‐hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Auckland, supported by the University of Otago and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. The Platform will make use of and develop existing capabilities nationwide.


Leadership

As we conclude the Establishment Phase, the interim Co-Directors designated by partner organizations to guide the platform plan's development have been substituted with our permanent directors. These directors will oversee the creation of a research program aligned with the MBIE-approved platform plan, focusing on establishing a national RNA technology platform. Their extensive and complementary expertise in research, commercialization, and stakeholder engagement positions them as credible leaders for the platform. Pillar Leads for each Platform Pillar will soon join and support them.

Profile photo of Prof. Gary Evans

Professor Gary Evans

Director of the Ferrier Research Institute of VUW. He is an accomplished medicinal chemist, focused on nucleoside and and nucleotide chemistry with an emphasis on drug discovery and development; most notably Ulodesine licensed to Roche for $560 million. Gary is a member of the NZ Order of Merit, a Ngā Ahurei a Te Apārangi Fellow and was awarded the MacDiarmid medal in 2011. More recently Gary served as MBIE's Chief Science Advisor for 4 years, providing crucial advice on science policy and contributing to sector advancement.

Kjesten Wiig

Professor Kjesten Wiig

Deputy Director of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and Executive Director of the Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (VAANZ). She has over 30 years of experience working between world-leading universities, USA-based drug-discovery companies and the New Zealand Government.  She currently holds a senior leadership position at the MIMR.

Fast Start Projects

Fast start is a set of research endeavours that are imitated within the RNA Platform.

Check out 8 projects selected

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Vision and mission

Our vision is to build world-class and sustainable national capability for the development, manufacture and commercialisation of RNA technologies in New Zealand

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March  2024 Newsletter - in this issue

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