In a world-first, Afrigen partners to develop Africa’s first-owned COVID-19 vaccine

Afrigen Biologics and Univercells Group announce landmark deal to develop the first African-owned COVID-19 shot.

In a statement released on Tuesday by both companies, South Africa’s Afrigen and Univercells announced they plan to leverage Intellectual Property from both parties and collaborate in developing the continent’s first African-owned COVID-19 jab. Through the partnership, the duo are looking to manufacture jabs that are cheaper to produce and easier to store and distribute across rural and remote areas where fewer people have been vaccinated. The duo’s efforts will see the continent reduce its reliance on imports as it navigates the ongoing battle against the coronavirus pandemic. At present, the continent imports about 99% of the shots it uses. As a result of the over-reliance on imports, the continent found itself lagging other regions when it comes to securing COVID-19 vaccine shots at the height of the pandemic.

The partnership between the Cape Town-based Afrigen and its Belgian partner looks to build onto the expertise developed through the WHO messenger RNA vaccine hub. Established a year ago, the hub transformed the landscape and helped kickstart the shift towards having the continent consume vaccines it produces. Afrigen is looking to manufacture the vaccine across 15 of its sites across low- and middle-income countries. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is a pressing need to build African capabilities in vaccine development and manufacturing,” said Petro Terblanche, Afrigen’s managing director. “Without the capacity to make their own vaccines, too many countries haven’t been able to access them. This agreement is an important step towards ensuring that everyone, everywhere – in Africa, and across LMICs – has access to life-saving vaccines and medicines.”