Saturday, October 1 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the opening of a new vaccine factory in Cape Town as Africa’s ticket to a new era in health sciences when it was launched earlier today.

South African health tech billionaire Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong joined Ramaphosa as they proudly cut the ribbon. The NantSA vaccine factory is expected to produce one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine by 2025.

“We want to make this in Africa for Africa and export it around the world. President Ramaphosa said, “Go home, we will make this happen,” Soon-Shiong said.

The NantSA vaccine production center is located in the Brackengate business park in Brackenfell. It will also produce next-generation cancer vaccines and cellular immunotherapies, making it the largest such plant in Africa. More importantly, it could accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination on the continent.

“A new era of health sciences for Africa”

Ramaphosa said the facility would help build South Africa’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities.

“This state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing campus is part of a much larger initiative to propel Africa into a new era of health sciences,” Ramaphosa said.

Soon-Shiong’s South African Unit NantWorks LLC, was created last year. Soon-Shiong said around R3 billion was needed for the factories to be located in several countries.

A chance for the continent to catch up

Africa struggled to get vaccines as rich countries administered vaccines to their citizens. Statistics show that only 10.1% of the African population (1.2 billion) have been fully vaccinated, compared to 62% of Americans and 72% of people in the United Kingdom (UK).

Soon Shiong’s ImmunityBio Inc. is developing a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccine that he hopes can be used as a universal booster. This could help end the pandemic by targeting the nucleocapsid protein at the heart of the coronavirus which is less prone to mutation than the spike proteins targeted by other injections.

The vaccine factory, which could employ between 400 and 600 people, depends on the vaccine companies develop and gain approval. Several countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Australia, are currently conducting trials.

A step in the right direction

Ramaphosa said this coalition would help Africa meet its health challenges.

“This NantSA facility will complement the work already done by companies like Aspen, Biovac and Afrigen here in South Africa. Our goal is to cover the entire vaccine production value chain by improving existing capacity and integrating new capacity,” Ramaphosa said. – Health-e News


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