New manufacturing method could see cheaper vaccines produced in Melbourne

UK pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has opened a new pilot plant to trial a promising vaccine storage method developed by the company, an Australian university and Belgian researchers.

The Australian reports that the method, dubbed “blow-fill-seal” is hoped to lead to cheaper, more accessible vaccines.

BFS was developed by GSK Australia, Monash university and Belgian experts. It was conceived five years ago and solves the problem of effectively inserting vaccines (and keeping these below 30 degrees Celsius) into plastic vials (which must be heated to 160 degrees Celsius to form).

The result takes up far less room compared to glass vials in cold storage, which then becomes cheaper per unit as a result.

"It was a problem about how do we use blow-fill-seal technology and not kill the vaccine," technical lead Philip Leslie told Fairfax.

The three-year trial comes with an investment of $7.7 million by the pharmaceutical company and federal assistance worth $1 million through the Manufacturing Transition Program.

"Advance manufacturing in Australia has to involve high-value products and complex processes such as automation to ensure we stay competitive,” Leslie said.

"The government funding also enabled GSK to make the decision to invest. Australia punches above its weight in terms with its research but lags with the industrialisation of those ideas.”

Federal member Alan Tudge said the facility cemented Boronia as a major area for manufacturing employment.

“There are over 10,000 people employed in manufacturing in Knox, so investments such as these help secure manufacturing for the future,” said Tudge, according to Australian Life Scientist.