SA born Patrick Soon-Shiong launches NantAfrica COVID-19 and cancer vaccine initiative

The now US biotech billionaire aims to build capacity for advanced health care in Africa.

South African born business mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong has announced the launch of a NantAfrica COVID-19 and cancer vaccine initiative during a briefing held-on Thursday in which President Cyril Ramaphosa was the guest of honour. The ambitious initiative is aimed at building capacity for advanced healthcare in Africa and entails a collaboration between NantWorks LCC, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), and four key academic universities across the country. The alliance will kick off the " transfer of biologic manufacturing technology for COVID-19 and cancer vaccines and next-generation cell-based immunotherapies. This will enable the rapid clinical development of next-generation vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer at centres of excellence across the country.” said Soon-Shiong.

The collaboration aims to accelerate and expand biologics, immunotherapeutics, and vaccine manufacturing in the country through technology transfer and state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facilities. “It has been a dream of mine, since I left the country as a young physician, to bring state-of-the-art, 21st century medical care to South Africa and to enable the country to serve as a scientific hub for the continent,” he said. Ramaphosa welcomed the investment by saying, “It was a homecoming moment when I met Dr Soon-Shiong and we saw an opportunity to strengthen our scientific and technological capacity; an opportunity to address the public health challenges experienced in South Africa and the continent and leapfrog to cutting edge technology”. Adding, “This technology transfer, including manufacturing biologics, will reinforce vaccine equity sorely needed globally.”