The Respiratory Technology team at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research will be involved in exciting new research in the fight against COVID-19 following the announcement of a $15-million investment by the State Government to be led by the newly-formed NSW RNA Production and Research Network.
The Network is a collaboration between NSW’s top universities and medical research institutes, with funding going towards three pilot projects. The Macquarie University-Woolcock Respiratory Technology team will lead one of the three projects which aims to investigate the aerosol delivery of RNA-based preventatives and treatments for COVID-19.
Dr Hui Xin Ong, research lead for the project, says the benefits of aerosol delivery are endless. "It's easy to self-administer, lower doses can be used because the treatment is directly targeted and, consequently, there should be fewer side effects. Moreover, the medication is more transportable, and it doesn’t need to be stored at very low temperatures."
Professor Daniela Traini, part of the Network’s management team, is excited by the possibilities.
"We are working closely with teams from the University of Sydney, Kirby Institute and Westmead Institute of Medical Research who will manufacture the RNA and turn it into nano-liposomes. The Macquarie-Woolcock team will formulate it for inhalation delivery, test aerosol performance, stability, potential partner medications and the best delivery mechanisms, whether using existing inhalers or new ones specifically for this purpose."
"The work we’ll be doing is all pre-clinical at the moment but considering that vaccines for COVID-19 were produced in less than two years we, as researchers, are no longer looking at 'normal' timeframes for what is achievable. Our work should be able to start very soon," she said.
"The alliance means we have the best researchers from our universities and medical research institutes working together towards the common goal of NSW becoming the lead in RNA therapeutics. We’ll be collaborating closely, having ready access to facilities, accelerating the pace of research in the field and we’ll be providing a training ground for the researchers of the future."