Australia is set to host the first mRNA manufacturing facility in the Southern Hemisphere after an agreement to build the facility was finalised.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Commonwealth has finalised a ten-year strategic partnership with the Victorian Government and global pharmaceutical giant Moderna.

The agreement – which was announced in-principle earlier this year – will see Moderna develop a new mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Melbourne.

Moderna will also establish a Regional Research Centre for respiratory medicines and tropical diseases and will collaborate with Australian institutions on mRNA research and development.

Once operational, the new facility will have an annual production capacity of up to 100 million mRNA vaccine doses annually.

The site will be determined by consultations between Moderna and the Victorian Government.

The cost was not disclosed, but media reports suggest the Commonwealth contribution to the partnership could be around $2 billion.

Construction is expected to begin before the end of this year (subject to planning and approvals). The facility is expected to be operational by the end of 2024.

Around 500 jobs will be created during construction whilst up to 200 workers will be needed to fill ongoing roles.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the partnership will help to future-proof Australia against future pandemics and will also support local industry.

Morrison says the partnership will help to ensure that Australia can meet ongoing COVID-19 vaccine requirements and remain on top of new and innovative respiratory mRNA vaccines.

He says the move will help to bolster Australia’s biotechnology sector by establishing us as a regional hub for mRNA technology.

“This will be the first mRNA production facility in the Southern Hemisphere, and will ensure Australians have quick and easy access to these lifesaving vaccines,” Morrison said.