Stuart Ralph speaks out on vaccine and need for biomedical research funding

The op-ed, published in The Age, discusses CSL’s current vaccine production and why public investment in the Australian biotech industry, biomedical research and workforce development is so important.

What is the worth of Australia’s life sciences workforce?

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to be rolled out nationally is being produced locally in Melbourne by Australian-owned biotech CSL.

The expert biomedical staff at CSL were predominantly trained at universities and research institutes across research teams and projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and the Australian Research Council (ARC).

“Over the past two decades Australian taxpayers have spent about $15 billion on life science research funded through these schemes,” says Associate Professor Stuart Ralph, from the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology in the School of Biomedical Sciences.

“The production of a only one benefit of this investment in life sciences...Australian research funded by taxpayers has led to drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics against numerous human diseases, protected and enhanced our agricultural sector, created a better understanding of our ecosystem, and improved knowledge of the basis of life itself,” Stuart says.

Stuart Ralph leads the Ralph Laboratory on parasitic diseases, with a primary focus on the causative agent of severe malaria, Plasmodium falciparum.

“The scientists trained in my own laboratory researching basic questions about the malaria parasite now work in product approval at TGA and therapeutic development in CSL. Other researchers who developed their skills through fundamental discovery projects in our school now work to sequence and track Australian COVID outbreaks, to predict the spread of COVID, and were the first outside China to isolate and sequence the virus that causes COVID-19."

As Stuart says over the past year the investment in life sciences has repaid itself many times: "This should be ample rationale for the continued Australian public support for this crucial sector."

The opinion piece was written by Associate Professor Stuart A. Ralph, Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute and published in The Age on 28 March 2021.

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