South Africa is ahead of Nigeria in terms of funding a post-COVID strategy

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More than a year after securing a seat on the first list of six African countries to obtain mRNA vaccine technology to develop an independent vaccine production system, Africa’s largest economy has yet to announce initiatives, particularly finance, to set the process in action.

The transfer of technology, which gave birth to the unexpected rise of high-efficacy vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, was intended to help African countries overcome decades of underdevelopment in pharmaceutical infrastructure, allowing them to rely on domestic capacity for large-scale production in a short period of time.

The six nations that were successful in their applications to the World Health Organization (WHO) for the technology in February 2022 were Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia.

However, Nigeria appears to be dozing on the racetrack while others progressively catch up.

South Africa has raised more than half of the expected budget of €92 million to complete the project within five years, according to Martin Friede, WHO’s coordinator of the Initiative for Vaccine Research, Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals.

According to the country’s projections, it will be able to raise 56 percent of the total required cash at the minimum and 69 percent at the maximum.

In the first phase of execution, approximately €39 million will be spent on preparing facilities to receive technology, as well as reviewing intellectual property agreements and the regulatory process for the facility.

This sum will also cover pre-clinical and clinical studies, clinical protocol preparation, and the establishment and operation of a training center.

The second phase will spend €30 million on developing a strategy for equipment and processes, training people to receive Afrigen technology, executing demonstration and process validation, and producing vaccine.

If the fund is completely funded, the final tranche of €23 million will be used to develop a pipeline of vaccine candidates for tuberculosis, HIV, and other infectious illnesses. It will also be used to improve technologies for low- and middle-income nations, as well as to partner with genetic sequencing centers.

The strategy, according to WHO, will include Afrigen in clinical studies, Biovac in the fabrication of materials for clinical trials in 2023, and the South African Medical Research Council, among others.

Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines is affiliated with South African colleges as well as pharmaceutical firms in 15 countries, including Senegal, Argentina, and Indonesia.

Apart from South Africa, countries like as Egypt appear to be better positioned to accept and use the technology, given available infrastructure and recent vaccine production expertise.

Egypt has been producing the Chinese Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in a domestic factory and exporting it to Africa since 2021.

Minapharm, an Egyptian private sector enterprise, also signed a 2021 agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to produce Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine locally.
Egypt also announced the initiation of clinical trials for COVI-VAX, its first domestic coronavirus vaccine, in November 2021.

Analysts’ confidence appears to be the only early indication that Nigeria will pursue its goal of adopting the technology.

Oyewale Tomori, retired professor of Virology and former vice-chancellor of Redeemers University, said Biovaccine Nigeria Limited, the company at the centre of Nigeria’s vaccine plant project, began activities to ensure all the necessary steps were taken as soon as Nigeria’s selection was announced.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control got things started, and Biovaccine Nigeria Limited assisted with the documentation and interviews. According to Tomori, the Federal Ministry of Health took part in the diplomatic shuttle.

“That combination made sure Nigeria was succeeding. The fact that the government was involved in the diplomatic shuttle gives us confidence that the government will support this time. I don’t think they can afford to fail. We have been on this for quite a long time,” he said.

“We have to succeed, otherwise we become a laughingstock to entire world. This is a country chosen out of so many other countries and it is a race to ensure we get to that place.”

The federal government’s plans are not yet known. At the time of writing, the ministry of health had not responded to any questions.

The Future of mRNA

According to Ernest & Young, RNA platforms will likely solidify as a therapeutic idea and acquire a significant share of the preventative vaccinations market.

Also read: Cancer immunity hopes grow as vaccine expected by 2030

Aside from the immediate COVID-19 possibility, the mRNA market is predicted to expand rapidly, reaching over $5 billion by 2025.

Riding on recent mRNA accomplishments, many mRNA startups, primarily in the United States and Europe, have received around $4.6 billion in financing.

There are several great concepts for using mRNA therapeutics in areas other than preventive medicine, while infectious diseases remain the second-largest group by number of trials based on our pipeline scan, accounting for around 30%.

Because the potential for employing mRNA to trigger an immune response has also been identified as an intriguing alternative in the treatment of cancer, the majority of current research initiatives are focused on that therapy area — typically in trials on tailored medicines.

However, mRNA is emerging in various disease areas and with different mechanisms of action, such as the generation of hormones or cytokines in metabolic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory ailments.

 

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