World’s First, S.Africa’s Afrigen produces COVID mRNA vaccine using Moderna data According to Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vials labeled “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” and sryinge are seen in front of the South African flag shown in this illustration taken, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Minh Graphics / Image files


By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s Afrigen Biology division used a publicly available sequence of Moderna (NASDAQ: Inc.’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to create its own injectable version, which could be tested in humans before the end of the year, top Afrigen executives said Thursday.)

The vaccine candidate would be the first to be produced based on a widely used vaccine without developer support and approval. It is also the first mRNA vaccine to be designed, developed and manufactured at a laboratory scale on the African continent.

The World Health Organization (WHO) last year selected a consortium including Afrigen for a pilot project providing poor and middle-income countries with the know-how to produce a COVID vaccine, after leaders market for COVID mRNA vaccines, Pfizer (NYSE:), BioNTech and Moderna, declined WHO’s request to share their technology and expertise.

WHO and its coalition partners hope their technology transfer hub will help redress inequalities between rich and poorer countries in access to vaccines. About 99% of Africa’s vaccines against all diseases are imported and a negligible remainder are produced domestically.

During the pandemic, wealthy nations have hoarded most of the world’s vaccine supplies.

Biovac, a state-owned South African vaccine maker, will be the first to receive the technology from the hub. Afrigen has also agreed to help train companies in Argentina and Brazil.

In September, the WHO center in Cape Town decided to go it alone after failing to get Pfizer and Moderna on board, both of which said they needed to oversee any technology transfers due to the manufacturing process. complex output.

Moderna was not immediately available for comment on Afrigen’s announcement on Thursday.

Moderna’s vaccine was selected by the WHO due to its extensive publicity and the company’s commitment not to enforce patents during the pandemic. It’s unclear what will happen after the pandemic ends and whether the company will attempt to enforce them again.


“If this project shows that Africa can use advanced technology and manufacture advanced products, this will eliminate the idea that Africa cannot do it and change the global mindset… this could be a game changer,” Charles Gore, chief operating officer at MPP, told Reuters at the facility of Afrigen, a converted warehouse.

Under pressure to produce the drug in low-income countries, Moderna and BioNTech have announced plans to build an mRNA vaccine factory in Africa, but production still has a long way to go.

“We didn’t copy Moderna, we developed our own processes because Moderna didn’t provide us with any technology,” Petro Terblanche, chief executive officer at Afrigen, told Reuters.

“We started with the Moderna sequence because in our opinion that gives the best starting material. But this is not Moderna’s vaccine, it’s Afrigen-centric vaccine,” Terblanche said. mRNA”.

She then gave a delegation of EU diplomats on a tour of the state-of-the-art facility, where scientists have been witnessing mRNA production in sterile white-walled rooms.

She said they have been trying to create, in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand of Johannesburg, small-scale batches of the COVID mRNA vaccine in their first lab at the Cape Town facility.


Terblanche said Afrigen is also working on a next-generation mRNA vaccine that does not require freezing for storage, the requirements for doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and will be better suited for Africa, which is often faced with the high temperature and poor medical facilities. and infrastructure.

Terblanche added: “We will only do our batch of clinical trials six months from now, (that is) … fit for humans. And the target is November 2022.”

Online training for other companies to execute the shot began with manufacturers in Brazil and Argentina last year. Afrigen expects more to come within the next month.

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