In a significant stride towards fostering a robust vaccine ecosystem in Africa and enhancing pandemic preparedness, BioNTech SE, a leading biopharmaceutical company, celebrated the inauguration of its site in Kigali, Rwanda. The pivotal moment coincided with the setup of the inaugural manufacturing unit known as the BioNTainer, marking a crucial step in the company’s commitment to establishing mRNA vaccine manufacturing capacities on the African continent.
This groundbreaking effort aligns with BioNTech’s multifaceted initiatives to contribute to a sustainable and resilient African vaccine ecosystem. Beyond the inauguration ceremony, BioNTech engaged in a comprehensive conference titled “Working together to promote vaccine equity for Africa.” The discussions involved prominent organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and other key stakeholders. The aim was to address opportunities and challenges in building a robust vaccine infrastructure, covering aspects from research and development to manufacturing and local training.
The Kigali facility, envisioned as the first commercial-scale mRNA manufacturing facility in Africa, is based on BioNTech’s cutting-edge BioNTainers. These digitally enabled modular manufacturing units are designed to produce a range of mRNA-based vaccines and are adaptable to remain among the world’s most sophisticated mRNA manufacturing facilities.
The manufacturing site, fully funded by BioNTech with an investment commitment of approximately USD 150 million, will initially feature two BioNTainers. The facility is expected to be fully operational by 2025, following local training in 2024 and the initiation of mRNA-based vaccine production for process validation.
BioNTech’s vision extends beyond the Kigali facility, with plans to establish additional manufacturing sites in Africa based on the success of the Kigali project. These sites may vary in scale, providing either increased commercial-scale manufacturing capacities or specializing in batches for clinical evaluations based on regional needs.
In tandem with its manufacturing endeavors, BioNTech is actively advancing the development of prophylactic mRNA vaccines targeting infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV. Clinical trials for tuberculosis and malaria vaccines are already underway, with plans for further trials in Africa in 2024. The company envisions providing access to these vaccines at a not-for-profit price for lower-income countries, addressing the significant health challenges prevalent in the region.
During the inauguration event, Prof. Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech, engaged in discussions with His Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal. The discussions revolved around exploring potential research partnerships focused on infectious diseases relevant to the African continent, exemplifying BioNTech’s commitment to impactful collaborations in the region.