Moderna to build mRNA manufacturing site in Kenya

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Moderna Africa Kenya vaccine manufacturing

mRNA pioneer Moderna has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Republic of Kenya to establish an mRNA manufacturing facility in the country.

The facility, which will be Moderna’s first in Africa, is set to produce up to 500 million doses a year: with drug substance manufacturing on site and the potential to expand to include fill/finish and packaging capabilities.

Moderna earmarked up to $500m for an African facility last year, and has now chosen Kenya as the location. The MOU with the Kenyan government was established with the assistance of the US government.

Sustainable access to transformative mRNA innovation

Moderna’s portfolio includes its approved COVID-19 vaccine and a pipeline of 28 vaccine programs against respiratory viruses, vaccines against latent viruses and vaccines against threats to global public health.

"With our mRNA global public health vaccine program, including our vaccine programs against HIV and Nipah, and with this partnership with the Republic of Kenya, the African Union and the U.S. government, we believe that this step will become one of many on a journey to ensure sustainable access to transformative mRNA innovation on the African continent and positively impact public health,”​ said Stéphane Bancel, CEO, Moderna.

Building up vaccine manufacturing in Africa

Moderna is not alone in its efforts to build up vaccine manufacturing in Africa: a continent that currently manufactures just 1% of the vaccines distributed.

Last month, BioNTech introduced a modular turnkey solution to enable mRNA-based vaccine production in modular and scalable sites installed by the company. The establishment of mRNA manufacturing facilities is planned for Senegal, Rwanda and potentially South Africa, with construction of the first facility to start this year. A project in Ghana will support manufacturing with fill-and-finish capacities. Capacity can be scaled up by addition further modules.

Meanwhile, South African vaccine manufacturer Biovac – which entered into an agreement with Pfizer in 2021 to manufacture mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses – last week announced plans to expand its manufacturing capacity​ thanks to a partnership with development and finance institutions.

And last year the WHO created a mRNA technology transfer hub headed by a South African consortium, comprising of Afrigen Biologics, the South African Medical Research Council and Biovac: with Biovac providing the first manufacturing ‘spoke’. The hub has already established mRNA vaccine production at laboratory scale and is currently scaling up and validating production at commercial scale. Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia will become the first six countries​ to receive the tech needed to produce mRNA vaccines on the continent.

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