‘Game-changing’ South African mRNA hub set to be a foundation for self-reliance

pharmafile | February 15, 2022 | News story | Manufacturing and Production  

WHO officials have visited a number of public and private sector partners that are collaborating to develop and build WHO’s global mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa.

Based on the vision of the Governments of South Africa and France for diversifying vaccine manufacturing and specifically accelerating vaccine production in Africa, a consortium including the Medicines Patent Pool, Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are driving forward the initiative.

For much of 2021, limited global vaccine supply led to huge disparities in COVID-19 vaccine access, leaving billions of people – especially in low- and middle-income countries – unprotected against serious disease and death from COVID-19.

Low levels of vaccine coverage also provided the ideal conditions for new variants to develop. While supply has now increased, access to any new formulations of COVID-19 vaccines – tailored specifically to new variants – is also likely to be unequal, because manufacturing capacity remains limited to only a small handful of companies and countries.

“Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of investments in science, technology and innovation. Therefore preparing for future pandemics is key and so the WHO mRNA global hub is a critical building block to ensure that South Africa and the whole continent has the production capacity that is essential for equitable vaccine rollout,” said Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology of South Africa. “The mRNA technology is not only for COVID-19, we hope it can be adapted to help us in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, which is why we’re investing heavily, alongside international partners, in this initiative.”

The central aim of the project is to develop a training facility where mRNA technology is developed to the scale required for mass production of vaccines and then for that full package of technology to be transferrable to multiple recipients in low- and middle-income countries. The mRNA global hub is designed to serve low- and middle-income countries and will empower countries to not only be able to make their own mRNA vaccines but ultimately to have the choice of which vaccines they want to make.

Ana Ovey

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