Africa’s new vaccine factory promises “next generation vaccine solutions”. What does this actually mean?


South Africa just launched a new COVID-19 vaccine factory in Cape Town on January 19.

Biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong of California-based companies ImmunityBio and NantWorks has helped launch a vaccine factory and healthcare facility that aims to produce 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines by 2025.

NantAfrica, a division of global company NantWorks, will lead vaccine development and production, as well as focus on finding solutions and treatments for cancers and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity to bring 30 years of advanced clinical, scientific and biological know-how to the country and establish much-needed capacity and self-sufficiency,” noted Soon-Shiong.

This initiative and the launch of the facility is supported by the South African Presidency and Government, along with the country’s departments of health, science and innovation, as well as some of Africa’s leading bioscience institutes. from South. pledging to help establish NantAfrica’s presence in the countryand help conduct medical research.

At the launch of the new NantAfrica vaccine factory, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed that Africa having its own manufacturing facilities would be key to the continent’s self-sufficiency.

“Africa should no longer be the last to access pandemic vaccines,” the president said. noted. “Africa should no longer go head in hand to the western world, begging and begging for vaccines that they just want to pour off the end of their tables. We will manage on our own.

Africa is struggling to access COVID-19 vaccines due to wealthy countries’ vaccine hoarding and pharmaceutical companies’ refusal to share their technology and information with the continent, a move that could dramatically improve access of Africa in vital doses.

“It is within the walls of this facility, through the networks being built, through the development of advanced skills and through other initiatives across our continent, that our vision for manufacturing vaccines, diagnostics and medicines in Africa will gradually take shape”, noted Ramaphosa.

NantWorks and ImmunityBio have been working on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that, according to the companies, began its trial phase in September last year. The idea is that the NantWorks jab can be taken independently, or in addition to any other coronavirus vaccine previously received, and will work to improve immunity against the virus using the body’s T cells (defensive white blood cells).

The activity of the new vaccine manufacturing plant in Africa will depend on the approval of the vaccine for use in South Africa, with trials currently in progress in South Africa, Botswana and Australia.

COVID-19 T-cell booster vaccines, such as the one NantWorks and ImmunityBio are working on, are to be viewed with optimism by experts and have shown great promise so far. It was proven in December 2021 that these jabs are safe and broadly protective against variants of the coronavirus. These vaccines would aim to arm the body’s T cells to fight the virus, rather than using an antibody response, which is what existing COVID-19 vaccines currently do.

“I believe this is our way to stop this pandemic,” Soon-Shiong said. noted on the development of his company’s T-cell vaccines. “This is our way to stop all these mutations.”

Overall, NantAfrica promises to deliver the next generation of vaccine solutions, not only for COVID-19, but for other infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, as well as cancer. How the company plans to do this has not yet been revealed, but it says it will leverage its partnerships with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Council for Medical Research and some southern universities. -African organizations to inspect, research and find solutions for some of the world’s biggest infectious diseases.

NantWorks’ investment in African health systems is an example of the role the private sector can play in driving Africa’s development and capacity. After launching the installation in South Africa, Soon-Shiong htraveled to Botswana to start conversations medical investments in the country, with the aim of potentially expanding NantAfrica’s impact on the continent. The developments of these conversations have not yet been made public.

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