Vaccine plant launches in South Africa to boost vaccine production

The NantSA facility also aims to produce drugs from other therapeutic areas for the continent.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and South African-born billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong have unveiled the new vaccine manufacturing facility in Cape Town on 19 January. Founder of United States (U.S.) based biotechnology firm NantWorks, Soon-Shiong has invested $200 million to start the facility which is intended to aid the local NantSA company manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. The manufacturing plant is a partnership between NantWorks, the government and South African universities. The initiative aims to boost the countries COVID-19 vaccine and medication production capabilities. “The pandemic has revealed the huge disparities that exist within and between countries in access to quality healthcare, medicines, diagnostics and vaccines," Ramaphosa stated. Africa is responding to COVID-19 with a “depth of scientific knowledge, expertise and capacity,” to make its own vaccines, he added.

The 25,000 square meter NantSA plant will not only focus on COVID-19 vaccine production but also on other drug therapies for the country as well as the continent. Soon-Shiong will transfer the technology and materials from NantWorks to South African scientists who will also be working on vaccines that target cancer, TB and HIV. Stockpiled bioreactors will also be transferred from the U.S factories, with vaccine production expected in late 2022. Soon-Shiong has emphasised the need for South Africa to become independent in local biopharmaceutical production. Ramaphosa noted, "Bit by bit those colonial chains are being broken. Today we have broken some of those links. We thank you very much son of South Africa, Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong.” The facility aims to produce 1 billion vaccines every year by 2025.