New Zealand is one step closer to making our own COVID-19 vaccines, as Timaru receives vaccine machine

New Zealand is one step closer to delivering a homegrown vaccine for COVID-19 instead of relying on offshore supplies.

Cutting-edge vaccine technology, the first of its kind in New Zealand, has arrived in Timaru.

The NanoAssembler blaze is only the second in Australasia.

The million-dollar machine is similar to what the company Pfizer uses to make our COVID-19 vaccines.


Now New Zealand is getting on the homegrown vaccine bandwagon. 

It works by encapsulating the lipid, or fats, which protects the RNA on its journey to the immune system to prepare our bodies to fight the virus.

Funded by private donors to the Malaghan Institute, the future of our vaccine production is being installed at South Pacific Sera.

"We're a step closer to New Zealand potentially delivering its own mRNA vaccines," Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods says.

"It’s utterly essential for New Zealand to be resilient….By having it here we have the means to charter our own course in the world and not rely on other countries," Malaghan Institute and VAANZ Program Director Graham Le Gros says.

mRNA vaccines have been around for a long time, but until this technology it’s been difficult to deliver.

"This has been the big breakthrough in RNA vaccines to be able to protect the rna," South Pacific Sera Production Director William Rolleston said.

This technology has been pivotal to the mRNA vaccines we’ve become so used to hearing about during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"One of the really important things to realise is this gives us the ability to make enough vaccine for New Zealand and the Pacific and even Australia if they need it," Prof Le Gros says.

It also opens doors to creating other therapies.

"This tech can be used not just for vaccines but also cancer therapies and particularly for chronic diseases," Dr Rolleston says.

It’s a silver lining to the pandemic.

"Crises creates opportunities and this is an example of that," he said. 

The end of this year is earmarked for New Zealand’s next step of making our own vaccines when clinical trials are expected to start.