BioNTech plans to supply modular factories to manufacture mRNA vaccines in Rwanda, Senegal and, potentially, South Africa, the German company announced on Wednesday, ahead of a Europe-Africa summit during which the increase in the production of vaccines in Africa should be a vital outcome.
The “BioNTainer” is comprised of six containers that can be shipped and assembled to produce the mRNA vaccine drug substance as well as the eventual bulk vaccine formulation. The containers will be able to manufacture a range of mRNA vaccines, including BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and its experimental malaria and tuberculosis vaccines, BioNTech said in a statement. The last stage of the production process, filling and finishing, will be carried out by local partners.
BioNTech, whose messenger RNA (mRNA) coronavirus vaccine – co-marketed with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer – is the world’s most widely used jab, announced the vaccine production initiative at an event in Marburg in presence of Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current head of the African Union, as well as dignitaries including Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
In a statement, Kagame said the innovative production system “opens a new horizon for global equity in vaccines”, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “As European and African partners, we are working hand in hand to launch local vaccine production in Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Rwanda.
The first container-based production unit will be delivered in the second half of the year, with production expected to start approximately 12 months later. BioNTech would be responsible for delivering and installing the modules, and the company said it would prepare to transfer its know-how to local partners to enable them to operate independently.
Any vaccines would be used in Africa and available at a not-for-profit price. Wednesday’s announcement builds on BioNTech’s earlier plans to build a manufacturing facility on the African continent and comes as local leaders increasingly push for solutions that will allow the region to be self-sufficient in materials. production of vaccines, therapies and diagnostics.