South Africa's Afrigen Biologics Limited said on Friday that it will collaborate with U.S. government researchers to develop mRNA vaccines and therapeutics.
Cape Town drug company Afrigen has become the first African laboratory to partner with the US government’s Vaccine Research Centre to develop mRNA vaccine technology in SA and low-income countries.
The agreement will enable the sharing of scientific expertise, technical skills and materials with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help Afrigen produce mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, said Afrigen. The partnership will also use the technology to study and develop vaccines for cancer and other diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and influenza.
The collaboration, announced on Friday, comes after SA scientists led by Prof Patrick Arbuthnot, head of Wits University’s antiviral gene therapy research unit, were able to create an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 from limited publicly available information.
mRNA is the technology used for COVID-19 shots by market leaders such as Pfizer and Moderna. Both have declined international requests to share their technology and expertise, citing complexity of the manufacturing process.
Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) picked a consortium of South African companies including Afrigen to provide poor and middle-income countries technology to make mRNA COVID vaccines.
The collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, will help Afrigen fast-track manufacturing for its vaccine's first clinical trial, said Afrigen managing director Petro Terblanche.
"This collaboration allows us to exchange scientific expertise to further this mission and support Afrigen's globally important research and vaccine discovery efforts",
said Richard Koup, the acting director of the NIAID.
Source: Business Live, Reuters