‘Very appealing’: US vaccine giant looks to amp up Australian trials

COVID-19 vaccine maker Novavax is looking to do more clinical trials in Australia, including further research to develop its combined coronavirus and influenza vaccine.

The US biotech’s chief medical officer Filip Dubovsky told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the strength of Australia’s medical research sector has been a significant drawcard for the company.

Novavax has prioritised Australia as a research hub, but is unlikely to manufacture its products here.

“We find this a very appealing place to do work — it is very sophisticated, the medical infrastructure is very good, and the regulatory and political structures are favourable,” he said.

“We’re kind of scoping out to see where we [can be] doing additional work in the future.”

Novavax supplies one of the four COVID-19 vaccines available in the Australian market and has already undertaken a range of research projects here.

Dubovsky said the company was “agnostic” about the locations and partners it could use in future, saying Novavax had done work in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland but was open to other sites.

The company will be advancing trials for its combined coronavirus and influenza vaccine, which it started researching in Australia last year in a phase 1 study.

The next stage of trials will launch in Australia before the end of this year, Dubovsky said.

Fellow US vaccine maker Moderna is also racing to develop a one-shot vaccine for both COVID and the flu, with the company telling this masthead this week that the product could be made in its Melbourne manufacturing facility once it opens in 2024.

Dubovsky would not comment on whether Novavax’s product was more advanced in its development than Moderna’s at this stage, but said the industry was moving towards developing vaccines that target more than one respiratory virus at a time.

Fellow US vaccine maker Moderna is also racing to develop a one-shot vaccine for both COVID and the flu.Credit:AP

“We are in the position where we [think we] will get to annual boosting for COVID,” he said.

Current booster uptake figures around the world suggest that “people are getting tired of having to get re-vaccinated”, he said.

Australia has been focused on its sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability over the past two years, and is soon set to get two new manufacturing facilities. CSL is building at $800 million flu vaccine manufacturing facility at Tullamarine, while Moderna will set up an mRNA vaccine plant at a to-be-announced location in Melbourne.

Novavax is unlikely to join them as a local manufacturer, however, with Dubovsky confirming the company does not currently need any new production sites to meet demand for products.

“We can meet all global needs from the facilities we have right now.”

Instead, Australia looks set to become more of a research hub for the business.

Novavax’s product pipeline includes vaccines for malaria, ebola, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

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