The New Zealand government’s investment in a national COVID-19 vaccine program is the shot in the arm the country needs for its economic future and the health of the people, comments Graham Le Gros, Director of the prominent biomedical research institute Malaghan Institute based in Wellington. These comments followed the introduction by Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, Health Minister David Clark and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters where it was announced a $37 million COVID-19 vaccine strategy to enable the nation’s scientists to contribute to global research efforts while exploring the potential of vaccine manufacturing capability in New Zealand.
An Important & Timely Commitment
Professor Le Gros commented that the investment demonstrates the Government is committed to ensuring New Zealand and its Pacific neighbors are positioned to access a vaccine at the earliest opportunity. He states, “We’re currently working with government to finalize details of our role, along with academic partners and industry collaborators Avalia Immunotherapies and South Pacific Sera, for the development of potential vaccines for New Zealand.”
Others commented too, such as University of Otago Associate Professor James Ussher, noting it was fantastic that the Government has committed to the global SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development effort. “I am very pleased that New Zealand will be supporting CEPI, GAVI, and local vaccine development and manufacture. I’m confident that the Government strategy is the best way for New Zealand to contribute to the global effort and to ensure access to a safe and effective vaccine at the earliest opportunity for the people of New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations,” he says.
The New Zealand collaborative research group will investigate various vaccine strategies for New Zealand while continuing research into potential vaccines. These include a virus-inactivated vaccine approach in progress in Professor Miguel Quiñones-Mateu’s lab at the University of Otago and a recombinant spike protein vaccine being developed out of Dr. David Comoletti’s lab at Victoria University of Wellington.
$100+ Million of Value to Invest
Professor Le Gros reminds all that the various research institutions, private companies and government centers involved bring “well over $100 million worth of science infrastructure alongside commercial intellect that can be put to good use towards the Kiwi COVID-19 vaccine effort.” With world renowned scientists, companies and a collaborative spirt, the New Zealand research apparatus is ready for an intensely focused cooperation targeting COVID-19 vaccine development.
The Whole Nation Supporting
Moreover, Le Gros says, “We’ve already had a lot of interest from people keen to play their part in securing a vaccine for New Zealand—from wealthy philanthropists to everyday Kiwis wanting to crowdfund for the cause. Alongside government funding and research grants, this support is vital and valued and will have a real impact.”
About Malaghan Institute
The Malaghan Institute is an independent biomedical research institute based in Wellington, New Zealand. The organization specializes in the immune system and how it can be harnessed to improve human health. Its key areas of research and discovery are cancer; asthma and allergy; infectious disease; gut health and brain health. In 2019, the Institute began New Zealand’s first clinical trial of CAR T-cell therapy, testing a third-generation CAR T-cell therapy in partnership with Wellington Zhaotai Therapies.
Graham Le Gros, Director of the Malaghan Institute