Africa’s Afrigen Biologics made its own version of the COVID-19 vaccine, using
the publically available sequence of Moderna Inc’s mRNA COVID-19. The vaccine
shot is expected to be tested in humans before the end of this year, Afrigen’s
top executive said on Thursday. It is also the first mRNA vaccine designed,
developed and produced at a lab on the African continent.
vaccine candidate would be the first to be made based on a widely used vaccine
without the assistance and approval of the developer.
World Health Organization (WHO) last year selected a consortium including
Afrigen for a pilot project to help poor and middle-income countries to make
COVID-19 vaccines after market leaders of the mRNA COVID vaccine, Pfizer,
BioNTech and Moderna, declined a WHO request to share their technology and
WHO and consortium partners hope their technology transfer hub will help
overcome inequalities between rich nations and poorer countries in getting
access to vaccines. Some 99% of Africa’s vaccines against all diseases are
imported and the negligible remainder manufactured locally.
the pandemic, rich countries ate up most of the vaccine supplies. Biovac, a
partly state-owned South African vaccine producer, will be the first recipient
of the technology from the hub. Afrigen has also agreed to help train companies
in Argentina and Brazil.
September, the WHO office in Cape Town decided to take initiative to help
African countries develop vaccines after failing to bring on board Pfizer and
Moderna, both of which have argued they need to oversee any technology transfer
due to the complexity of the manufacturing process.
had no immediate comment on Afrigen’s announcement on Thursday. Moderna’s
vaccine was chosen by the WHO due to an abundance of public information and the
company’s pledge not to enforce patents during the pandemic.
not clear what will happen after the pandemic ends and whether the company will
try to enforce them again.