WHO establishes global biomanufacturing training hub in Korea

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/kotofeja
Pic:getty/kotofeja

Related tags: WHO, mRNA, Korea, biomanufacturing

A global biomanufacturing training hub will be established in Korea to serve low- and middle-income countries wishing to produce biologicals such as vaccines, insulin, monoclonal antibodies and cancer treatments.

The Government of the Republic of Korea has offered a large facility outside Seoul, which already carries out biomanufacturing training for companies in the country, and will now expand to accommodate trainees from other countries.

Backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Republic of Korea and the WHO Academy, the facility will provide technical and hands-on training on operational and good manufacturing practice requirements.

The WHO Academy will work with the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare to develop a comprehensive curriculum on general biomanufacturing.

“One of the key barriers to successful technology transfer in low- and middle-income countries is the lack of a skilled workforce and weak regulatory systems,”​ said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Building those skills will ensure that they can manufacture the health products they need at a good quality standard so that they no longer have to wait at the end of the queue.”

Kwon Deok-cheol, Minister of Health and Welfare, Republic of Korea, said the country is well positioned to understand the challenges and needs of countries as they build up biomanufacturing capacity.

“Just 60 years ago, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world,”​ said the minister. “With the help and support of WHO and the international community, we have transitioned into a country with a strong public health system and bio-industry.

“Korea deeply cherishes the solidarity that the international community has shown us during our transition. By sharing these lessons we’ve learnt from our own experience in the past, we will strive to support the low- and middle-income countries in strengthening their biomanufacturing capabilities so that we could pave the way together towards a safer world during the next pandemic.”

In parallel, WHO is intensifying regulatory system strengthening through its Global Benchmarking Tool (GBT), an instrument that assesses regulatory authorities’ maturity level. The GBT will serve as the main parameter for WHO to include national regulators in the WHO-listed Authorities list. Another aim is to build a network of regional centres of excellence that will act as advisers and guides for countries with weaker regulatory systems.

South Africa mRNA hub update

The move comes after the establishment of WHO’s global mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa; and will complement trainings developed by this facility.

Announced in 2021, the WHO’s global mRNA hub in South Africa has set out to provide a center of excellence and training for the new tech.

This month, the WHO has announced five more countries will now also receive support from the hub: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Serbia and Vietnam.

“These countries were vetted by a group of experts and proved that they had the capacity to absorb the technology and, with targeted training, move to production stage relatively quickly,”​ says the WHO.

Argentina and Brazil were the first countries from the region of the Americas to receive mRNA technology from the global hub in South Africa, joining the initiative in September 2021. Companies from those countries are already receiving training from the technology transfer hub.

The WHO says that numerous countries responded to the call for expressions of interest from the technology transfer hub in late 2021. It is prioritizing countries that do not have mRNA technology, but do already have some biomanufacturing infrastructure and capacity. Further mRNA technology recipients will be announced in the coming months. 

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