German laboratory BioNTech on Wednesday unveiled the mobile product units that will be shipped to Africa this year to produce the vaccine, developed with Pfizer, in the form of the first mRNA vaccine against Covit-19.
“The question is: can the manufacturing process be made compact enough to fit in a container,” Ukhur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, told AFP.
The pioneer laboratory of Messenger RNA technology has designed two volumes containing a total of twelve containers, one for the preparation of MRNA and the other for finalizing the vaccine serum, which must then be vialized elsewhere.
Called “BioNTainer” this mobile plant will be shipped to Rwanda or Senegal, probably to both countries, in the “second quarter” of 2022 and the first doses will be available 12 months later. It is currently three years to open a conventional factory of this type. According to Bioendech, South Africa will eventually “join” the production network.
At least the vaccinated continent
The modules were demonstrated on Wednesday at BioNTech’s flagship mRNA manufacturing facility in Marburg, central Germany. “The modular system opens up a whole new perspective on global immunization equity,” Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, said during the presentation.
Africa has the lowest number of vaccines. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) reports that more than a year after the first Govt-19 vaccines were given, two years after the outbreak, only about 12% of Africans have been fully vaccinated.
Zahin says the project is part of Bioendech’s initiative to “set up MRNA technology production units on all continents” and that its company has produced more than three billion copies of the vaccine developed by American Pfizer.
“Increasing local production is essential,” WHO Director-General Tetros Adonam Caprais warned in Marburg, while more than a hundred countries “may not reach the 70% target we set in the middle of this year.”
“You don’t give us fish, you teach us how to fish,” said John Nkengasong, director of the CDC Africa, emphasizing the importance of developing knowledge on the continent that has so far been distributed in random quantities.
Although about 50,000 steps need to be carefully considered to prepare the vaccine, before installing it, he said, “the idea is to standardize the container and check the process in advance.” Sahin described.
Bioentech staff will initially work there but will need to train local specialists to “hand over the plant to medium or long term,” the German company said in a statement. Less than two years ..
Containers could also be used to make BioNTech’s vaccines against malaria based on mRNA, if clinical trials set to begin this year lead to its approval.
This is an exchange of some technologies, but especially without removing the patents demanded by many developing countries and voluntary organizations.
“Patents are not important because if we install the technology and give it to a partner, he will have the license to operate it,” he said, guaranteeing “responsible use”. Sahin mentioned this in an interview with AFP.
In parallel, Biologics, a South African biotechnology company, recently announced that it had developed the first messenger RNA vaccine against Covit-19 on the continent, using the genetically engineered genetic code used by American company Moderna to design its vaccine.
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