Three months after the World Bank announced a EUR 600 million loan to South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare, the African continent has received more good news as it seeks to increase vaccine manufacturing know-how.
BioNTech, the company behind Pfizer’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, sold under the brand name Comirnaty, recently announced the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Rwanda and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar to build Africa’s first mRNA manufacturing facility by 2022.
Touting it as “a node in a decentralized and robust African end-to-end manufacturing network,” the German company declared that the project will enable an annual capacity of several hundred of million doses.
This positive development comes shortly after another vaccine-related progress for the continent when the World Health Organization recommended a groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk.
“Together, we will work on developing a regional manufacturing network to support the access to vaccines manufactured in Africa, for Africa,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. “Our goal is to develop vaccines in the African Union and to establish sustainable vaccine production capabilities to jointly improve medical care in Africa.”
According to a press release, BioNTech will initially staff, own and operate the facility to support “the safe and rapid initiation of the production of mRNA-based vaccine doses,” and plans to transfer manufacturing capacities and the know-how to local partners. The company, the Rwanda Development Board and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal agreed to “swiftly build-up” the required human resources capacity and systems “so that the partners can take over ownership and operational duties.”
In addition, the Republic of Rwanda and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar have committed to scale-up fill and finish capacities to complete the local end-to-end manufacturing process. In related news, BioNTech is in discussions about an expansion of the current partnership with Cape Town-based vaccine manufacturer Biovac, which is part of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing network.
“State-of-the-art facilities like this will be life-savers and game-changers for Africa and could lead to millions of cutting-edge vaccines being made for Africans, by Africans in Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa. “This is also crucial for transferring knowledge and know-how, bringing in new jobs and skills and ultimately strengthening Africa’s health security. WHO is ready to work with countries to step up their commitment to vaccine manufacturing.”