UNSW celebrates $119m funding to support RNA research across 14 universities

14 Jun 2022
UNSW celebrates $119m funding to support RNA research across 14 universities

RNA science has significant potential to treat cancer, genetic and autoimmune diseases – making critical contributions toward advancing human health.  

UNSW Sydney has welcomed the NSW government’s budget announcement of $119 million over 10 years which will help accelerate the translation of local RNA research. The funds will help transform NSW into a world-leading destination for RNA research, development and local manufacturing capabilities.  

Director of the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance Professor Pall Thordarson from UNSW Sydney welcomed the announcement. “I am proud to have been entrusted by the NSW Vice-Chancellor’s Committee to lead the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance,” said Prof. Thordarson. 

“We are delighted to see the very strong support from the NSW government for RNA research and development and the close collaboration between the NSW state government and the 14 universities in NSW and ACT through the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance. This investment is crucial to our shared vision to advance NSW as a global leader in the RNA ecosystem,” Prof. Thordarson said.  

“With the state government’s investment, the NSW research community will be able to address a range of current health challenges and attract a number of national and international industry collaborators and jobs to the state.”  

Prof. Thordarson said the collaboration across the 14 Australian universities is instrumental in streamlining processes that will benefit industry and research partners.  

While RNA science made headlines during the pandemic with the development of mRNA vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Prof. Thordarson highlighted the importance of RNA science and technology with the significant potential it has to treat cancer genetic and autoimmune diseases – making critical contributions toward advancing human health.

“The $119 million in funding for RNA for research over the next 10 year in NSW gives our universities an unique opportunity to work together; solving problems ranging from vaccine developments to cancer treatments and gene therapeutics,” said Prof. Thordarson. 

As a taste of what is to come, Prof. Thordarson said, the NSW RNA Production and Research Network (NSW-RPRN) – a collaboration between UNSW, UTS, Macquarie University, ANU, the University of Sydney and several medical research institutes – is already running collaborative projects on RNA-based COVID-19 treatments (antivirals) and RNA lung delivery to treat infections and lung cancer.  

“The new NSW government-funded 10 year RNA Research plan will allow us to further expand the scope of these research programs,” explained Prof. Thordarson.  

Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology Alister Henskens said the NSW government was working in partnership with the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance, an unprecedented collaboration between all 14 NSW and ACT universities. 

“By bringing together our world-leading universities and industry leaders, we can deliver innovative solutions to some of the most important and complex challenges facing the world,” said Mr Henskens.  

Together the 14 universities will also provide excellent opportunities for national and international companies in the sector to advance the development of new products for human and animal health.  

“UNSW with its flagship UNSW RNA Institute stands ready and eager with all the other universities within the NSW RNA Bioscience alliance to work with the state government and industry to make NSW a global hub in the RNA ecosystem,” said Prof. Thordarson.