The rationale for AVRA
Addressing the critical need for a research initiative in Australia
The inherent unpredictability of pandemics and their causative agents means that the initial development, and then sustainability, of capability in end-to-end vaccine production will require both a portfolio of vaccine candidates, and the capacity to address unmet clinical needs.
This vaccine portfolio will target the dual threats of emerging viral infectious disease pathogens with pandemic potential and the continuing rise of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria, both independently recognised for their impact on human health and prosperity.
Vaccines are already used to control many important viral and bacterial pathogens globally, yet with a few exceptions (e.g. influenza vaccines), there is neither the technical capability nor the specifically directed national investment in vaccine research and development in Australia to address both of these threats. In essence, our nation is needlessly exposed.
The expanded expertise and infrastructure capacity created through AVRA will enable a rapid pivot to new disease threats (as has occurred with the original UQ-CEPI partnership established in 2019 to develop a rapid response pipeline), and catalyse vaccine commercialisation. Technological synergies can be leveraged across both viral and bacterial vaccine development pathways – including vaccine delivery platforms/technologies, novel adjuvant formulation, immunological assessment and identification of correlates of protection, preclinical assessment, vaccine manufacture and clinical trials. The integration of expertise and capabilities spanning both viral and bacterial vaccine research will accelerate vaccine development and manufacturing capacity and ensure this expert knowledge becomes entrenched in Australia by training the next generation of scientists in all aspects of the vaccine development process.
AVRA addresses the critical and urgent need for a nationally coordinated research and translation initiative that will advance Australian sovereign capability in vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing. Global drivers compel an expansion of vaccine research, development and production capacity to improve reaction times during pandemic emergencies. Targeted investment into vaccine development, existing and next-generation vaccine platforms, production technology and clinical evaluation are crucial to a long-term strategy that effectively addresses the threats posed by current and emerging infectious diseases.
What are the risks of doing nothing?
The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has resulted in catastrophic social and economic disruption. As at December 2020 more than 60 million cases of COVID-19 were reported in 190 countries and regions, resulting in more than 1.4 million deaths, with the figures continuing to rise. It is also clear that the next pandemic is just a matter of time—a probability, not a possibility. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board called for urgent action including for researchers, research institutions, research funders, the private sector, governments, the WHO and international organizations to improve coordination and support for R&D in health emergencies and establish a sustainable mechanism to ensure rapid development, early availability, effective and equitable access to novel vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and non- pharmaceutical interventions for health emergencies, including capacity for testing, scaled manufacturing and distribution.