US News South Africa: The first Messenger RNA vaccine in preparation

13:10  12 october  2021
13:10  12 october  2021 Source:   20minutes.fr

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Afrique du Sud : le premier vaccin à ARN messager du continent en préparation © Towfiqué BARBHUYA / UNSPLASH South Africa: The first Vaccine in RNA messenger on the continent in preparation South Africa, which militates for equitable access Anti-Covid vaccines, has embarked on the design of a first African vaccine at RNA Messenger (mRNA), to terminate the continent's dependence on rich countries.

The innovative mRNA technology is to inject in the body of genetic instructions that dictate the patient's cells what to make to combat the disease. The process is used by modern modern laboratories and Pfizer-Biontech for their anti-Covid vaccines. Supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the South African Biotechnology Afrigen company, based in Cape Town, conducts a pilot project that will call "reverse engineering" (which is to seek the principles of design a product) to reconstruct a formula close to the MRNA vaccine . The first doses should be ready for clinical trials within one year, according to the director of Afrigen, Petro Earthblache. Negotiations are underway to obtain a license agreement with the American pharmaceutical giant for production.

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Research and development in state-of-the-art facilities, which cost about 7.5 million euros, started there. has three months. To date, just 5% of eligible Africans are fully vaccinated. Largely lagging behind the rest of the world, Africa is strongly dependent on dose imports and donations by rich countries.

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"The bitter lesson we've drawn from this pandemic is that Africa is almost entirely dependent" Vaccines produced outside the continent, told AFP Richard Mihigo, Coordinator in charge of vaccines. WHO Africa. The Afrigen project aims to end it by locally developing an innovative vaccine, adapted to climate conditions in Africa. "What we are looking for is a second generation vaccine," says Martin Friede, Coordinator for Vaccines for WHO in Geneva.

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"We have to start with a thousand of Moderna and bring us closer as possible," he continues. But the idea is to develop a vaccine "more adapted to low-income countries". While existing mRNA vaccines should be stored at low temperatures, the Afrigen formula will ideally require little or no refrigeration. "Africa must become autonomous in the production of vaccines over the next 20 years," says Mr. Friede. Once the formula is developed, Afrigen plans to train other African countries in the manufacture of the vaccine. South African BioVac, located in the same complex as Afrigen, will be the first to produce the new commercial vaccine.


created by UNITAID - International Organization for Medicinal Purchasing for Poor Countries - The Patent Pool Medicines (MPP), which negotiates treatment licenses with patent holders, conducts the talks with Moderna. With a little luck, "we could get an agreement so that they do not say their patents," said Charles Gore last month, director of the MPP. The giants of the pharmaceutical industry have so far resisted the pressures for lift patents on anti-Covid vaccines. South Africa and India in mind have militated for a temporary lifting allowing countries in lack of doses of producing cheaper generics.

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Last week, Moderna announced its intention to build a state-of-the-art mRNA plant in Africa, which will produce up to 500 million doses of vaccines a year. For the moment, nor date or place have been specified. The Afrigen project is funded by the WHO COVAX initiative, for equitable access to vaccines. South Africa is officially the African country most affected by the pandemic, with more than 2.9 million cases and 88,300 deaths. Doses of the Johnson & Johnson American laboratory vaccine are packaged by the Aspen pharmaceutical giant in GQeberha (EST). And a similar agreement was passed between American Pfizer and South African BioVac laboratories in Cape Town.

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