New consortium working to boost vaccine production in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA – The World Health Organization (WHO), together with a few other concerned organizations have formed a consortium, officiated by a letter of intent to address the global imbalance of manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines.

The consortium, consisting of the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), Afrigen Biologics (PTY) Limited, the Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa (Biovac), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), will establish the South African mRNA technology transfer hub.

This hub will allow for greater and more diversified vaccines manufacturing capability, strengthen African regional health security and respond more equitably to the current COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics.

This letter of intent sets out the terms of the collaboration and responsibilities between affiliate organisations, following WHO’s announcement in June of the first South African COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

The consortium will be responsible in ensuring the scheme is well funded, suitable technologies are applied, manufacturing support and sustainability of the vaccine innovation platform.

Within the consortium, MPP will provide appropriate intellectual property analysis, define and negotiate terms and conditions of the agreements, provide alliance management and make use of our established robust selection process to allow further technology recipients to benefit,” said Charles Gore, Executive Director, MPP.

Afrigen, a biotechnology company that established the first adjuvant formulation laboratory in Africa, reported that they had completed a facility suitable for the establishment of a fully integrated mRNA pilot scale production, formulation and fill finish platform.

“Our platform and facilities are well positioned to deliver on the hub’s objectives, and Afrigen will focus on ensuring the technical, scientific, quality control and quality assurance and regulatory teams so as to implement the mRNA Hub for Africa,” said Prof Petro Terblanche, Managing Director of Afrigen.

Biovac, holding primary position in the vaccine transfer hub has managed to source and supply a comprehensive range of vaccines required by the South African government and its neighboring countries including childhood disease vaccines among others, and more recently COVID-19 vaccines.

Recently, Biovac was contracted by Pfizer-BioNTech to produce their Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, with the fill and pack process, starting 2022.

“It is a long-held desire of Biovac to ensure that the full value chain of vaccines is developed in our continent and our aim is to assemble state of the art manufacturing capacity and help ensure the transfer of mRNA technology and know-how as quickly as possible,” said Morena Makhoana, Chief Executive Officer of Biovac.

Speaking during the inauguration of this consortium, Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said the specialized technical institution of the African Union that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions is focused on ensuring Africa has imely access to vaccines to protect public health security.

“It is critical the world shares vaccine technologies now with African countries while also building up the manufacturing capacity across the region to help battle back against COVID-19 and also to leave a legacy for future pandemics,” Dr. Nkengasong remarked.

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