Construction of Africa’s first mRNA vaccine production plant begins in Rwanda

Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda (center L) and Ugur Sahin CEO of BioNtech (R) mark the beginning of the construction of a mRNA vaccine factory, Kigali, 23 June 2022. /AFP Photo

The first of three planned projects in Africa to produce ‘home-grown’ treatments against COVID-19 and other diseases is underway in Rwanda.

Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda (center L) and Ugur Sahin CEO of BioNtech (R) mark the beginning of the construction of a mRNA vaccine factory in Kigali, Rwanda. /AFP Photo

Rwandan president, Paul Kagame and BioNtech’s CEO Ugur Sahin on Thursday launched the construction of a messenger RNA vaccine factory in Kigali.

Kagame called the project “grounbreaking” and said his country worked to attract biopharmaceutical researchers in the manufacturing sector.

Sahin described the groundbreaking ceremony in Rwanda’s Special Economic Zone as a milestone in the establishment of scalable mRNA vaccine production in Africa.

“We have reached the next milestone with the construction of the first African mRNA manufacturing facility based on our BioNTainers — just four months after we introduced the BioNTainer concept in February,” he said. “This factory will be the first in an African network to provide sustainable production capacity for mRNA pharmaceuticals. The goal we pursue together with governments and regulatory authorities is to produce vaccines for Africa here with highly skilled professionals from Africa.”

Production will include vaccines against COVID-19, but also pioneering treatments currently in development against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, diseases that are ravaging Africa. Human trials of a BioNTech malaria vaccine using mRNA technology are expected to begin in late 2022.

The company says initially, the new facility could produce up to 50 million doses of vaccine annually.

Africa is the world’s least vaccinated continent against COVID-19. Less than 20 percent of its 1.2 billion population have received two doses of vaccine.

Story compiled with assistance from wire reports