SOUTH AFRICA, Cape Town: The BioVac Institute, a state-backed South African vaccine company plans to use a deal it won to manufacture coronavirus shots as a step towards developing an inoculation export industry in the country.
BioVac’s Chief Executive Officer, Morena Makhoana said on March 19, that the contract his company signed with US-based ImmunityBio Inc. will allow BioVac to transform itself from a facility that merely packages and labels the shots to one that makes the raw materials.
“What we have been working on is how do we ensure that any intervention we get into has a longer-lasting impact,” he said.
The plant is expected to cost 200 million Euros ($238 million).
The intended Capacity
Makhoana said the plant may be able to produce about 100 million doses a year and would enable BioVac to join Senegal’s Institute Pasteur de Dakar as one of two companies able to make vaccines from start to finish in sub-Saharan Africa.
Currently, BioVac and Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. have the ability to complete vaccines in South Africa once supplied with the APIs.
Aspen will start filling COVID-19 vaccine vials on behalf of Johnson & Johnson in the second quarter of the year.
Cape Town PlantBioVac, which is 47.5 per cent held by Makhoana and 30 per cent by the South African government is in talks with ImmunityBio about taking a stake, the CEO said.
The plant would be built in Cape Town, preferably adjacent to the company’s current operation.
“It does need to cater for beyond South Africa,” he said, adding that a scaled-down version could cost as little as 50 million euros.
ImmunityBio’s vaccine, while lagging behind those made by bigger companies such as Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc., is seen to have its advantages.
” Its so-called hAd5 T-cell kills infected cells and in addition to the spike proteins found on the coronavirus the shot targets the nucleocapsid protein, which is less prone to mutations.
“That could make it more effective against strains such as the one first found in South Africa late last year,” ImmunityBio and Biovac said in a statement.
South Africa has had more than 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and almost 52,000 deaths, making it the hardest-hit country on the continent.