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German project to bring mRNA vaccine production to Africa

The German vaccine company BioNTech is initiating an innovative, cooperative project to bring more vaccine production to Africa. This venture to set up facilities in Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa, builds on current work with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, and expertise gained from working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), and the European and African Unions.

Laboratory assistant investigates an infection
© zilli

Last month, the Mainz-based company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Rwandan government and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar. The accord is for the construction of Africa’s first mRNA manufacturing facility. Work is planned to begin in mid-2022.

The objective is for the facility to become a node in a decentralized, robust, and sustainable end-to-end vaccine manufacturing network in Africa. BioNTech says that ultimately the network should have the capacity to produce several hundred million doses of mRNA vaccine each year. 

BioNTech’s co-founder and CEO, Dr. Ugur Sahin, said at the signing, “… We will work on developing a regional manufacturing network to support the access to vaccines manufactured in Africa, for Africa. Our goal is to develop vaccines in the African Union and to establish sustainable vaccine production capabilities to jointly improve medical care in Africa. We have made great progress in the past few weeks, which will help us on our way to turn these plans into reality.”  

The expertise gained during the expansion of BioNTech’s Marburg production facilities will flow into the African project. Initially, the African plant will produce around 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine a year. Construction of the first production line will pave the way for validation and “expedient set-up of capacities according to GMP standards.”

BioNTech will initially staff, own, and operate the facility to support the safe and rapid initiation of the production of mRNA-based vaccine doses. The company then plans to transfer manufacturing capacities and the know-how to local partners.

BioNTech’s project characterizes the ways in which innovative German healthcare works for patients at home and abroad. The export initiative for the German healthcare industry, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, is the place to learn more about it. The initiative has published the German Medical Biotechnology Industry Profile and produced a video Medical Biotechnology Made in Germany which provide information on German medical biotech for interested individuals and businesses from abroad.