WHO looking to set up mRNA tech hub in South Africa

Landmark initiative to enable the continent to manufacture mRNA vaccines as coronavirus battle continues.

In what president Cyril Ramaphosa declared a historic step towards spreading lifesaving technology, South Africa, France and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced they would be setting up a “tech transfer hub” in the country. The hub is intended to make it possible for African companies to manufacture mRNA vaccines within as little as nine to 12 months. Messenger RNA is the advanced technology being used in Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 shots. Addressing a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday evening, Ramaphosa confirmed that despite the historic step, he would still like the campaign for the easing of intellectual property rights to enable poorer countries to manufacture their own vaccines to continue with speed.

The historic move was lauded by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, particularly since the African continent has the least access to vaccines globally. “Today I am delighted to announce that WHO is in discussions with a consortium of companies and institutions to establish a technology transfer hub in South Africa,” said the Director-General during a press briefing in Geneva on Monday. “The consortium involves company Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, which will act as the hub both by manufacturing mRNA vaccines itself & by providing training to a manufacturer Biovac,” he added. Biovac is a private-public partnership between the South African government and the Biovac Consortium, and was founded to help manufacture affordable and quality vaccines for the continent.