The NSW government is exploring a plan to manufacture mRNA vaccines like those created for COVID-19 by Pfizer and Moderna.
But with the time frame of a successful pilot stretching to 24 months, the government admits its efforts are centred on "future-proofing" health needs, rather than immediately impacting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday she was pulling together a team, led by NSW Chief Scientist Hugh Durrant-Whyte, to oversee the creation of an mRNA therapeutics industry.
mRNA vaccines teach cells to make proteins which trigger an immune response and provide protection against the relevant virus.
Prof Durrant-Whyte said the technology to create such vaccines was already available in NSW at laboratory level, but needed to be scaled up.
He predicted that a successful pilot program for commercial-scale mRNA vaccine manufacturing in NSW would take 12 to 24 months.
Ms Berejiklian and Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant admitted the initiative would not have a short-term impact on the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it could help NSW remain on the cutting edge of health science over the longer term, with mRNA vaccines easier to modify and improve.
"Really we should be thinking this is future-proofing us, allowing our researchers to develop and play in the area of mRNA vaccines and a range of other therapeutics," Dr Chant told reporters on Tuesday.
"It's important we keep the breadth of capability on the table."
Ms Berejiklian said it was "about having an eye on the medium-to-long term, about developing an entire industry of manufacturing these types of pharmaceuticals which we currently don't have in NSW".
Last month, Victoria's Acting Premier James Merlino committed $50 million to manufacturing mRNA coronavirus vaccines in Melbourne.
He said the facility would take at least a year to start production but would secure vaccine supply for Australia and neighbouring countries.
NSW has not yet committed a similar sum to mRNA vaccine capacity.
Meanwhile, Ms Berejiklian again implored those in NSW aged over 50 to get vaccinated, saying it was critical for Australia's re-engagement with the world.
People 50 and older have from Monday been able to get immunised at some Commonwealth-run respiratory clinics across Sydney.
"I know there's a degree of comfort in the bubble we have and I understand that ... (but) until the vast majority of our population is vaccinated, we can't move beyond the bubble," Ms Berejiklian said.
"You can only sustain a bubble for so long.
"Whether we like it or not, the vaccine rollout is critical for us being able to re-engage with the rest of the world and prevent job losses which might emerge."
Australian Associated Press