BioNTech breaks ground on first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa – Endpoints News

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Covid vac­cine ac­cess to low­er- and mid­dle-in­come na­tions has been a con­cern dur­ing the length of the pan­dem­ic, but BioN­Tech is now push­ing for­ward with plans to in­crease vac­cine ac­cess for Africa.

Con­struc­tion work has kicked off for an mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Ki­gali, Rwan­da. Ac­cord­ing to BioN­Tech, the fa­cil­i­ty, dubbed the African mod­u­lar mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty, has a tar­get for the first set of man­u­fac­tur­ing tools to be de­liv­ered to the site by the end of this year.

Fi­nan­cial de­tails on the project were not im­me­di­ate­ly avail­able and End­points News has reached out for com­ment.

The com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ed to es­tab­lish ad­di­tion­al fac­to­ries in Sene­gal and South Africa in close co­or­di­na­tion with its part­ners in the re­spec­tive coun­tries. How­ev­er, the ini­tial site in Rwan­da will be­come a node in a de­cen­tral­ized African end-to-end man­u­fac­tur­ing net­work. All vac­cines that will be man­u­fac­tured in these na­tions will be ded­i­cat­ed to peo­ple re­sid­ing in mem­ber states of the African Union.

Ac­cord­ing to BioN­Tech, the fa­cil­i­ty will be around 30,000 square me­ters and will be ini­tial­ly equipped with two BioN­Tain­ers, or mod­u­lar ship­ping con­tain­ers that are equipped for mR­NA pro­duc­tion. For the Ki­gali fa­cil­i­ty, one con­tain­er will be used to pro­duce mR­NA, with an­oth­er to pro­duce the for­mu­lat­ed bulk drug prod­uct. The fa­cil­i­ty will al­so be equipped to man­u­fac­ture a range of mR­NA-based vac­cines tar­get­ed to the needs of African Union mem­ber states, which could in­clude the Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech Covid-19 vac­cine and BioN­Tech’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al malar­ia and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis vac­cines if the vac­cines are ap­proved or au­tho­rized by reg­u­la­to­ry au­thor­i­ties.

The com­pa­ny’s malar­ia vac­cine can­di­dates will en­ter hu­man tri­als lat­er in 2022, BioN­Tech said.

The es­ti­mat­ed ini­tial an­nu­al ca­pac­i­ty of the Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech Covid-19 vac­cine will be about 50 mil­lion dos­es, the Ger­man biotech said. Man­u­fac­tur­ing in Rwan­da is ex­pect­ed to com­mence 12 to 18 months af­ter their in­stal­la­tion. The fa­cil­i­ty is al­so ex­pect­ed to em­ploy about 100 staff by 2024.

“We have reached the next mile­stone with the con­struc­tion start of the first African mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty based on our BioN­Tain­ers – just four months af­ter we in­tro­duced the BioN­Tain­er con­cept in Feb­ru­ary. This fac­to­ry will be the first in an African net­work to pro­vide sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion ca­pac­i­ty for mR­NA phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals,” said BioN­Tech CEO Uğur Şahin, in a state­ment.

Dis­cus­sions on hav­ing vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been in the works since 2021, as pres­sure was mount­ing on Mod­er­na, BioN­Tech and its part­ner Pfiz­er to make their Covid-19 vac­cine more ac­ces­si­ble to the vast swaths of the globe still in need of dos­es.

How­ev­er, BioN­Tech is not the on­ly com­pa­ny look­ing to make a push in the African con­ti­nent. In 2021, Mod­er­na signed on to in­vest $500 mil­lion in an mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing site that could make up to 500 mil­lion dos­es a year. Al­so, the Mo­roc­can gov­ern­ment dropped $500 mil­lion in­to a new Re­ci­pharm fill-fin­ish plant, and Gri­fols is build­ing an IV bag plant in Nige­ria, but those projects aren’t set to be up and run­ning un­til 2023 and 2024, re­spec­tive­ly.

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