UNSW RNA Institute

RNA logo

A new RNA ecosystem is emerging. With the high-speed development of mRNA vaccines, brought on by rapid advances in the broader area of RNA biology and therapeutics, RNA products are being developed for a wide array of needs. From cancer treatments, to diagnostics, to agriculture, RNA science may hold the key to understanding some of the most complex conditions.

The Institute links and expands multidisciplinary teams in RNA biology, RNA chemistry and RNA medicine, with clinical experts and services, underpinned by a pilot-scale RNA accelerator facility. 

The formation of a dedicated Institute for RNA science, therapeutics and translational support is timely and will help ensure that NSW becomes a major international hub in the RNA ecosystem, positioned to make critical contributions to major advances in human health.

The institute will have at its centre the ‘RNA Production Accelerator’, a facility for scaling-up and producing promising RNA and nanoparticle drug candidates at pilot-scale before having them fast-tracked for pre-clinical trials. The UNSW RNA Institute, together with its partners, are building a world-leading manufacturing capability in NSW that will yield jobs, skills, and innovation in an industry with the potential to transform lives.

Our research

RNA Diagram

The UNSW RNA Institute is Australia’s leading RNA research institute, bringing together researchers from UNSW Science, Engineering and Medicine & Health, led by Director Professor Pall Thordarson, with collaborative input from other universities and institutes.

Our mission is to grow and support the NSW RNA Ecosystem:

  • mRNA Vaccines
  • Other RNA Therapeutics
  • RNA Delivery Systems
  • RNA Technologies
  • RNA Education
  • RNA Research

The UNSW RNA Institute will make critical contributions that advance human health, with a special emphasis on priority health areas:

  1. COVID-19 – infection treatment and vaccines for current and future variants
  2. Cancer – focus on hard-to treat cancers in children
  3. Rare and genetic disorders

Collaborate with Us

RNA resides both at the centre of our biology and at the frontier of biomedical research. In NSW and Australia, this frontier is being explored by the UNSW RNA Institute and our rich network of partners and collaborators.

Current Partners

The UNSW RNA Institute is part of the NSW RNA Production and Research Network (NSW-RPRN), a network that includes five NSW and ACT universities (UNSW, UTS, Macquarie U., U. Sydney and ANU), as well as institutions such as the Children’s Medical Research Institute, the Kirby Institute, the Westmead Institute of Medical Research, the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, the Children’s Cancer Institute and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

RNA Accelerator

One of the three pillars of the NSW-RPRN is the RNA Accelerator, the institute’s nucleus designed to expedite the discovery, manufacture and – crucially – pre-clinical trials of RNA-based therapeutics and other products. The Accelerator will supply high quality RNA/nanoparticle formulations under ISO-9001/GLP conditions for pre-clinical studies.

Supported by the Office for Health and Medical Research, the Accelerator is primed for action with three pilot projects within the NSW-RPRN: 1) Messenger RNA (mRNA) delivery pilot project 2) Better RNA nanoparticle delivery systems for the respiratory tract 3) Synthetic RNA (siRNA) therapeutics for treating SARS-CoV-2.


To explore the opportunities presented by the institute, its equipment, facilities, expertise and research network, please contact us via email, or follow us on Twitter.

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Our people

Professor Pall Thordarson
Director of the UNSW RNA Institute

Professor Pall Thordarson in the Lab

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The University of Iceland, he completed his PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Sydney in 2001. Joining the School of Chemistry at UNSW Sydney in 2007, Professor Thordarson was a Chief Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science 2014-2021. He has served as the Deputy Head of School of Chemistry since 2018. 

His research interest ranges from Nanomedicine and Light-harvesting Materials to Supramolecular and Systems Chemistry. He is focused on advancing our understanding of how molecules interact with one other and ‘self-assemble’, and how self-assembly can then be harnessed to create novel functional materials and systems. In collaboration with UNSW RNA Institute colleague Dr Albert Fahrenbach, he has extended this understanding to the synthesis of RNA and how RNA interacts with other materials. His key RNA research activities include nanoparticle delivery systems, RNA synthesis, RNA supramolecular chemistry and bioconjugate chemistry.  

Recent RNA publications include Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2021 & 2015), Adv. Healthcare Mat. (2020), J. Med. Chem. (2020) and Nature Commun. (2017). 

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