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Soon-Shiong launches new vaccine manufacturing plant in SA

President Cyril Ramaphosa has given weight to the policy of vaccine self-reliance in SA and Africa broadly with the launch of the NantSA vaccine manufacturing campus at Brackengate, Cape Town. Ramaphosa and billiionaire scientist Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder of the multinational conglomerate NantWorks, launched the campus last Wednesday (19 January).

Also launched was the Coalition to Accelerate Africa’s Access to Advanced Healthcare (the AAAH Coalition). This, reports Daily Maverick, is a collaboration between biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, non-profit organisations and academia to enable domestic production of pharmaceuticals, biologics and vaccines in South Africa, according to the coalition’s information booklet.

NantSA, a division of NantWorks, and the AAAH Coalition, aim to accelerate domestic production of pharmaceuticals, biologics and vaccines that will reach patients across the African continent.

Nant South Africa, along with NantAfrica and NantBotswana, was established in 2021 to participate in a coalition of organisations for the advancement of health in Africa.

Soon-Shiong described the launch of the vaccine facility as one of the most momentous moments of his life and a “homecoming”. He was born in Port Elizabeth, and trained in South Africa before emigrating to the US, according to Daily Maverick.

“I have the privilege of being trained as a doctor, obtaining amazing opportunities in the United States, and the idea is to bring it home so that we can create self-reliance in our country,” said Soon-Shiong.

In his speech, Ramaphosa said that Africa should no longer be last in line to access vaccines against pandemics.

“Today we mark the establishment of a company that aims to develop next-generation vaccines that will reach patients across the continent. This new entity, we understand, will collaborate with the mRNA hub by providing RNA enzymes they need to produce vaccines.

“Through initiatives like the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, we have worked to ensure that all African countries have been able to secure sufficient and affordable supplies to respond to the pandemic.

“Africa has had to wage a concerted fight to secure vaccines for its people, and thanks to the outstanding work of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, we have secured more than 500 million vaccine doses for the continent.”

He said this was a great achievement under extremely challenging circumstances.

“But these doses represent only around half of what the continent needs to vaccinate 900 million people to achieve the 70% target set by the WHO. We need more vaccine doses, better therapeutics, and to protect the people of our continent against future variants and future pandemics.

“To safeguard the health of our people, we need to have the means, the technology and the resources to produce vaccines and treatments for all the diseases that afflict our continent.

“That is why we have been working to establish new pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities to produce the COVID-19 and other vaccines.

“This NantSA facility will make a vital contribution to this mission, complementing the work already being done by companies like Aspen, Biovac and Afrigen here in South Africa, and several other companies in other parts of the continent.”

Other speakers at the launch included Dr Corey Casper, the CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute; Dr Glenda Gray, president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council; and Blade Nzimande, minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology. Virtual addresses were given by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Africa regional director of the World Health Organization; and Dr John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

A government statement said that “through the synergistic efforts of members of the AAAH Coalition, self-reliance will be accelerated around next-generation vaccines manufactured in South Africa for Africa, innovative therapeutics and pandemic preparedness”.

“With the support of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation, institutes for infectious disease and cancer centres of excellence will be established at the Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand and the Chan Soon-Shiong Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CSS CERI) at the University of Stellenbosch."

 

Daily Maverick article – New vaccine manufacturing campus is proof that Africa will ‘stand on our own’ – President Ramaphosa (Open access)

 

Official launch of NantSA campus speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Biovac’s Cape Town to pump out millions of Pfizer vaccines for Africa

 

Aspen delivers first African-manufactured COVID vaccines for SA

 

Afrigen’s Cape Town bid to reverse engineer Moderna’s vaccine

 

 

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