Geneva – The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and Afrigen have signed an agreement to allow the South African biotechnology company to establish itself as the global mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub. The 39 million euros grant will cover the work from 2021 to 2026. As part of the consortium, and through a hub and spoke model, the project aims to boost the vaccine manufacturing capacity of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to respond more equitably to COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Afrigen is already well on its way to setting up a state-of-the-art technology transfer and training hub for mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, including, as a first-generation vaccine, as a comparator and a relevant comparator for next-generation mRNA vaccines.

With the goal of producing mRNA vaccines at scale in LMICs, the next-generation vaccines will aim for greater thermo-stability. Vaccines using mRNA technology require very cold storage, so thermo-stable mRNA vaccines are best suited for low- and middle-income settings.

The Afrigen-based mRNA vaccine tech transfer program will provide sufficient transfer of know-how to allow recipient manufacturers to produce and release mRNA vaccines at scale to support clinical development, national/regional marketing authorisation and WHO prequalification, and sustainable supply to meet local and regional vaccine demand.

“The hub has been busy gearing up its Cape Town facility, recruiting staff, receiving training from international experts and partners such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, and working with South Africa’s regulatory agency SAPHRA to ensure that once ready to produce, Afrigen meets all the prerequisite standards,” said Petro Terblanche, Managing Director of Afrigen.

“MPP is delighted to support Afrigen and its African partners to greatly expand local manufacturing capacity and reduce today’s gross inequity in accessing health products, especially vaccines” said Charles Gore, Executive Director of MPP.

Online training has already started with the spokes selected in Brazil and Argentina last year, and Afrigen looks forward to more spokes coming on board within the next month. A spoke is a manufacturer that receives the training from the hub with the intention of manufacturing a product with the technology.

MPP’s activities related to the mRNA hub are currently funded by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

The mRNA technology transfer hub was formally established in July 2021 by bringing together MPP, the World Health Organization (WHO), Afrigen Biologics (PTY) Limited, the Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa (Biovac), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Preven-tion (Africa CDC).

Its aim is to allow for greater and more diversified vaccine manufacturing capability, strengthen African regional health security and respond more equitably to the current COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics.

Access the agreement

More information on the mRNA vaccine Technology Transfer Hub