BioNTech has struck a deal with Rwanda and Senegal to begin building a mRNA vaccine production plant in Africa next year.
The decision to start building a messenger RNA (mRNA) plant next summer comes after the German biotech signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Rwandan government and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal this week.
The firm had previously expressed the possibility of setting up mRNA manufacturing facilities on its own, or with partners in Africa and according to BioNTech, this step establishes its efforts to introduce sustainable end-to-end vaccine supply.
BioNTech claims the facility, once fully operational, will have a production capacity of 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per year, and a spokesperson for the company told BioProcess Insider the plant is not just for COVID-19 vaccine production as it “can produce any mRNA vaccine.”
The firm also expects to increase the capacity by adding further production lines and space to the manufacturing network in the future.
“State-of-the-art facilities like this will be life-savers and game-changers for Africa and could lead to millions of cutting-edge vaccines being made for Africans, by Africans in Africa,” said Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa.
“This is also crucial for transferring knowledge and know-how, bringing in new jobs and skills and ultimately strengthening Africa’s health security. [The] World Health Organization is ready to work with countries to step up their commitment to vaccine manufacturing.”
The location and financial details of the plant have not been disclosed but the firm says it has ordered the required assets and will build on its learnings from the scale-up of BioNTech’s production facility in Marburg, Germany.
The company will initially staff, own and run the plant in order to ensure the safe and quick production of mRNA-based vaccine doses.
“BioNTech has communicated that it plans to transfer manufacturing capacities and the know-how to local partners, but nothing further at this stage,” the spokesperson said.