Vaccine manufacturing campus opens in South Africa

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags South africa Vaccine COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer

A new vaccine manufacturing plant has been opened in Cape Town by South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa this week.

The NantSA vaccine manufacturing campus was also launched Abraxane inventor, South Africa native and CEO of US biotech NantWorks Patrick Soon-Shiong, who has made an investment into the facility stretching into hundreds of millions of rand.

The official opening of the campus was accompanied by the launch of the Accelerate Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare (AAAH) coalition: which aims to manufacture a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by 2025 as well as establishing production facilities for advanced biologics in sub-Saharan Africa. 

It also wants to establish innovative manufacturing techniques to provide new treatments for diseases including cancer, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. One of its first projects will be a second-generation COVID-19 vaccine.

New facility represents milestone for South Africa 

Africa currently imports 99% of vaccines administered on the continent: but the huge demand for COVID-19 vaccines has shone the light on the need to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity.

South Africa's new vaccine manufacturing facility is situated at Brackengate Business Park in Brackenfel. It is reportedly the first facility in the country to offer end-to-end manufacturing for COVID-19 vaccines.

South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa described the opening of the facility as ‘a milestone in Africa’s onward march towards health, progress and prosperity’.
“It is within the walls of this facility, through the networks that are being built, through the advanced skills that are being developed, and through the other initiatives across our continent, that our vision for vaccine, diagnostics and drug manufacturing in Africa will steadily take form,”​ he said.
“This state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing campus that we are officially launching today [January 19] is part of a far broader initiative to propel Africa into a new era of health science.
“The establishment of Africa's Access to Advanced Healthcare Coalition is a bold step to unite biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and academia.
“The Coalition gives effect to our firm belief that Africa needs to harness its skills and resources and identify opportunities for collaboration across several countries.
“The Coalition recognizes that Africa has both a great need and vast capabilities.”

Other vaccine investments on the African continent include an mRNA plant from Moderna​, producing up to 500 million doses a year: for both its COVID-19 vaccines and additional products in the future.

Meanwhile, BioNTech has pledged to set up mRNA manufacturing facilities​ on the continent with a particular focus on its malaria and tuberculosis candidates

South Africa’s pharmaceutical and medical devices markets were worth an estimated R62.7bn ($4bn) and R19.7bn ($1.29bn) respectively in 2020 and are expected to grow to R90.4bn ($5.9bn) and R29.6bn ($1.9bn) respectively by 2025. 

Western Cape premier Alan Winde says Cape Town has a growing health technology sector and is ‘well-positioned to grow over the next decade’, creating not only access to vaccines but an economic boost for the country and creation of new jobs.

Cape Town biotech Afrigen and the WHO Hub, along with the Western Cape Provincial Government and City of Cape Town, are working towards establishing the WHO’s first mRNA Technology Transfer Hub on the continent.

Meanwhile, South African vaccine company Biovac is expanding manufacturing capabilities to accommodate Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine production.

Advanced healthcare coalition launch

The Accelerate Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare (AAAH) coalition will be based in Seattle, Washington, with a mission to become a hub for innovation in vaccine and cancer immunotherapy research and development, early-phase GMP manufacturing, and training the next generation of scientists and manufacturing personnel.

Drawing on research from Seattle's Infectious Disease Research Institute, AAHI will contribute ‘the high-quality science of an academic research organization with the product-development capabilities of a biotech company’.

Its footprint and partnerships will extend beyond the US and into Africa with the formation of several new institutes across Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda.

AAHI and its sibling institutes will collaborate with academic institutions such as the University of Washington, Duke University, Emory University, and Baylor University in the United States and the University of Cape Town, University of Witwatersrand, and University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. 

The AAAH Coalition is supported through several billion rand funding from Patrick Soon-Shiong and from the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation.

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