Vaccine plant for humans and animals on the cards in Gqeberha

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the Rubic One Health (ROH) have entered into an agreement to finance the construction of a vaccine manufacturing facility.

The plant, intended for Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, is aimed at producing vaccines for humans and animals. The vaccines will be affordable and suitable for African conditions.

According to a joint statement, animal-borne diseases account for up to 60% of all human diseases, impacting on human health. Thus, preventing diseases in animals results in a decrease in human illnesses.

The planned facility is expected to serve as a catalyst for urgently completing the work required to make the project bankable and to commission a manufacturing facility within the next 12 to 18 months, said Dr Julian Naidoo, ROH’s chief executive.

ROH intends to establish a cutting-edge vaccine manufacturing facility at the Coega Special Economic Zone in Gqeberha. The location would allow for inter-country trade, export promotion, and country-to-country trade agreements.

The facility will operate in adherence to Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations and is expected to produce 27 million doses per year, deemed remarkable by industry standards.

Initiative to gather scientists, business leaders and other experts

Naidoo added that the initiative was structured as an eco-social enterprise. It’s therefore  intended to be sustainable but also have a significant developmental impact.

For its part, the ROH brings together a group of promoters, including leading scientists, economists, regulatory experts, business leaders, and academics, with a common goal: to address a significant market failure regarding access to vaccines in Africa.

They are committed to the “One Health” approach, which recognises the interconnectedness of animal and human health and our shared environment.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the ROH promoters identified vaccine inequity in Africa, with developed countries dominating the market. The ROH developed a business model to make vaccines accessible to underserved areas, aiming to improve locally manufactured vaccine access.

The chairperson of ROH, Dr Mathews Phosa, reiterated the CEO’s sentiment. He said: “Our solution will bring much-needed, high-demand vaccines to the continent that are affordable.”

Phosa further highlighted the need to strengthen regional economic development and capacity on the continent.

Building capacity for Africa

“Our model is structured to build scientific and manufacturing capacity in Africa. We have developed a hub and spoke model. We intend to leverage capability from experts in North, East, West, Central and Southern Africa. In this way, we will add to the Africa Union’s mission to build regional capabilities,” he said.

He continued: “We are well aligned with regional economic integration and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. We believe that this project will stimulate economic linkages and local economic development in many countries.”

Another core focus of this initiative is to locally develop and own vaccine discovery, development, and formulation of intellectual property. Naidoo said the ROH intended to be one of the first African vaccine manufacturers to develop and own IP across the full value chain and not be dependent on big pharmaceuticals.

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