Nzimande: R69m for plant-based and reagent vaccine candidates

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The Higher Education, Science and Innovation Ministry has announced that it has invested R68,766,000 towards coronavirus (COVID-19) research and development. Engineering News reports that addressing the media, Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said the funds were approved to support COVID-19 research and development in diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, surveillance and epidemiology, including genomic epidemiology.

Government, through the Department of Science and Innovation, owns a 47.5% stake in Biovac, a bio-pharmaceutical company, which is a joint venture with the private sector. “Last year I launched an initiative which sees Biovac manufacturing Hexaxim in partnership with Sanofi. Hexaxim is the world’s first fully liquid hexavalent (6-in-1) vaccine and protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B, and poliomyelitis, explained Nzimande.

He reiterated that there were two studies currently being supported in the area of COVID-19 vaccines.

The first is a study on plant-based manufacturing of antibodies for COVID-19, which aims to facilitate the rapid development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and therapeutic antibodies. The second study looks at diagnostic reagents using various expression platforms for advancing the production of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates and reagents.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has entered into an agreement with Kentucky Biological Products (KBP) for the potential manufacturing of the antigen of their vaccine, which uses specific tobacco plants.

Nzimande went on to dismiss the myth that COVID-19 was connected to 5G technology and encouraged South Africans to rely on scientific information. “I also wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm that all vaccines that government intends securing are scientifically tested and approved by competent relevant authorities. We urge our people to desist from believing in untruths, like that 5G mobile systems cause COVID-19,” he stated.

He also promised that in the next few weeks his department would host presentations with scientists to explain why the vaccine was important in fighting the virus.

On COVID-19 variants, the minister said his department had allocated R25m over the next 12 months to complete the sequencing of 10,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes in South Africa and the rest of the African continent.


Full Engineering News report

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