The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will invest $40 million for the mRNA vaccine to help manufacturers in Africa get the jab rolled out for its citizens.
In a news release, the foundation said that its mRNA investment marks an important step forward in improving “health equity.”
“Whether it’s for local diseases in Africa like Rift Valley [fever] or for global diseases like TB, mRNA looks like a very promising approach,” Bill Gates told The Associated Press on Sunday.
“And so it allows us to bring in lots of African capabilities to work on these vaccines, and then this can be scaled up.”
The foundation recently opened its annual three-day Grand Challenges event, which brings public health researchers and scientists from around the world.
The Institut Pasteur, along with the South Africa-based company Biovac, will be using an mRNA research and manufacturing platform that was developed by Quantoom Biosciences in Belgium.
The Gate Foundation will give the two Africa-based vaccine manufacturers $5 million each, while another is earmarked for other companies that have not yet been named.
The remaining $20 million in funding will go “to further advance the technology and lower costs.”
As The Associated Press reported:
The mRNA vaccine technology came to the forefront with the production of COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
The messenger RNA approach starts with a snippet of genetic code carrying instructions for making proteins. By picking the right virus protein to target, it turns the body into “medicine factories,” according to Pfizer.
Those COVID-19 mRNA vaccines were fast-tracked through the regulatory process and granted emergency use authorization.
The new vaccines under development in Africa face a far longer development timeline — from three to seven years.
Dr. Amadou Sall, chief executive officer at Institut Pasteur, said the deal will help build vaccine self-reliance in Africa.
The institute already has been producing yellow fever jabs since the 1930s and now hopes mRNA technology can be harnessed to produce vaccines for diseases endemic on the continent, such as Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.
“What we want is next time there is a pandemic — we hope it won’t happen soon — Africa would be able to make its own vaccine, to contribute to the development, and make sure that we protect the population,” Sall said.
“What happened with COVID should never happen again in the sense that Africans should get vaccinated as a matter of equity.”
Jose Castillo, chief executive officer of Quantum Biosciences, said the mRNA technologies allow low- and middle-income countries “to become autonomous in terms of research and development.”
The platform only needs 3,800 square feet of space to have a manufacturing facility capable of making tens of millions of doses.
“Many people in many countries did not have the access they would have needed for them to be vaccinated on time” during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“So we think that this technology will have a tremendous impact in terms of autonomy through regional manufacturing.”
With $8.3 billion to give away in 2023, the Gates Foundation is the largest private philanthropic donor.
And with an endowment of more than $70 billion, its spending power is likely to continue for many decades.
The Daily Fetched reviewed the AP story and may have altered it to ensure our editorial standards.