US billionaire to manufacture Covid, cancer vaccines in S. Africa

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech millionaire, has announced that he will begin transferring technology to South Africa in order to manufacture Covid-19 and cancer vaccines.

In an online news conference with President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African-born and now-US-based doctor detailed the proposal that would see coronavirus vaccine production begin next year. Within the following three months, Shiong’s business NantWorks will transfer the technology, and vaccine manufacturing is scheduled to commence in 2022.

The government’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Medical Research Council, and the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, as well as four local institutions, according to a statement from Ramaphosa’s office.

Aside from vaccinations, the NantWorks project will focus on cell-based immunotherapies, which might lead to novel cancer treatments.

Soon-Shiong, a physician from California, described this as “a momentous event in my life; it’s been a life ambition to look at technology we can bring back home.”

“We now have the expertise and technology to manufacture vaccines in Africa,” he continued. “It is my hope and wish that Africa would benefit from this technology.”

The investment, according to Ramaphosa, is a “game changer” for South Africa.

“This collaboration will drive South Africa and Africa in general to the forefront of healthcare, research, technology, and innovation,” Ramaphosa added.

This is the third pharmaceutical manufacturing investment announced in South Africa this year, the pandemic’s worst afflicted country on the continent.

In the southern city of Gqeberha, once known as Port Elizabeth, Aspen Pharmacare is filling and packing Johnson & Johnson injections.

The World Health Organization has chosen South Africa to host an mRNA manufacturing centre, with Biovac of Cape Town completing the final “fill and finish” phase for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

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