Senegal may start producing COVID-19 vaccines next year under an agreement with Belgium’s biotechnology group Univercells aimed at boosting Africa’s ambitions for drug production, a source involved in financing the project told Reuters.
As rich countries begin to reopen after securing vaccine supplies early, African countries are still struggling to get photos. On a continent of 1
The cooperation highlights the opportunities created by a global push to channel money and technology into the production of a continent that makes only 1% of the vaccines it needs.
Univercells announced the signing of a letter of intent to cooperate with the Pasteur Institute in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in April. The source shared details of the proposal, which were not made public.
Under the agreement, the Pasteur Institute will use vaccine production technology developed by Univercells to deliver vaccines against COVID-19 to countries in West Africa.
The institute will initially start packaging and distributing vaccines produced by Univercells in Belgium early next year, a source involved in securing funding for the cooperation told Reuters.
Univercells will move its full production line to Senegal in the second half of 2022, the source said, adding that the company will train local staff so they can eventually manage the operation.
Asked about the timing of the project, Univercells chief investment officer Kate Anthrobus confirmed that she could send doses of vaccines to Senegal early next year.
She declined to comment on the exact date for a complete vaccine production line in Senegal, but from the deadlines she said: “I don’t think they are unreasonable.”
The timing depends on whether Univercells provides regulatory approval for a vaccine production facility in Belgium. Antrob said this was expected “every day now”.
The institute’s director, Pasteur Amadou Sal, declined to comment on the timing or size of the project, but said the facility is working with donors to provide financial support.
“There is a lot of political will, I am optimistic. But it is not a matter of inertia, but of creating a real opportunity,” he said.
It is not yet clear what vaccine will be delivered to Senegal, but Antrobus said the site in Belgium will be able to produce a class of so-called COVID-19 viral vector vaccines such as those developed by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), AstraZeneca (AZN.L), the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese Cansino.
“If COVID surprisingly disappears next year … the same capacity can be used for other viruses,” Anthrobus said.
Univercells also has its own candidate for the COVID-19 vaccine, developed with German company Leukocare and Italian company ReiThera, which has completed phase II trials. It is seeking funding to implement Phase III, which the Italian government has said it is ready to fund.
300 MILLION DOSES NEXT YEAR
The Pasteur Institute in Senegal is the only facility in Africa that currently produces a vaccine – the yellow fever vaccine – that has been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, requiring manufacturers to meet strict international standards.
Pre-qualification allows delivery facilities for large buyers such as the UN Children’s Agency UNICEF.
Donors, including the United States and the European Union, are lining up to help fund expansion at the institute to include COVID-19 vaccines, said the source involved in the fundraiser.
The institute’s call for $ 10 million in initial funding has been written, the source said.
A UK-funded cost-benefit analysis for the Pasteur Institute, seen from the same source, says the project will cost about $ 200 million, based on its goal of producing 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of next year. year.
Funding will depend on the institute that has engaged buyers. According to the cost analysis, the project would be economically viable if it produced vaccines other than COVID-19, so that it could continue to operate after the pandemic.
Africa’s struggle to ensure the supply of vaccines has exposed its vulnerability to health crises and prompted governments to find ways to boost the production of medicines and vaccines.
These efforts are now gaining momentum with rich countries.
The European Union said last month that it would invest at least 1 billion euros to build production centers in Africa, with Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda, Morocco and Egypt among the leading candidates.
The Biovac Institute in South Africa told Reuters it was in contact with the French and German governments and pharmaceutical companies to produce 30 million vaccines against COVID-19 a year.
South African company Aspen Pharmacare is already producing photos of the J&J vaccine locally.
The EU plan, in coordination with the African Union, aims to strengthen drug regulators in Africa, train Africans in the skills needed to expand the pharmaceutical industry, and support businesses that produce materials and components.
The plan will look at countries that “can move fast and have the political capital to pull it forward,” said John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The $ 1.3 billion vaccine market in Africa could rise to $ 5.4 billion by 2030 due to population growth and the availability of new vaccines, US consulting firm McKinsey and Company said in an April report.
There is still a long way to go, experts say.
In addition to the need for funding, governments and regulators need to facilitate technology transfer in Africa and reduce risk through public-private partnerships.
“These are really medium to long-term goals, so you’re looking at a minimum of one to two years,” said Chema Triki of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. “It’s not just about COVID. Africa needs to be ready for the next pandemic.”
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