South African-based bio-pharmaceutical company, Biovac, has concluded a licensing and technology transfer agreement to manufacture an oral cholera vaccine (OCV).
According to a statement released on Wednesday, this is a partnership with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), a non-profit organisation headquartered in South Korea.
Biovac say the project is significant for them as it enables drug substance manufacturing capability to be built, that is, production of the antigen or raw material needed to manufacture actual vaccines.
“This is one of the remaining steps in the vaccine manufacturing value chain that is currently missing, not only at Biovac but across the African vaccine manufacturing landscape,” they said.
The company, partly owned by the South African government, noted that the agreement comes at a time when cholera outbreaks are wreaking havoc on fragile health systems in Pakistan, Nigeria and Malawi.
The partnership with IVI aims to licence and transfer technology to increase production volumes to reduce the critical shortage of vaccines needed to prevent cholera globally.
Biovac believes that after many decades, this will be a critical step forward for vaccine production in Africa.
Another noteworthy detail about this project is the involvement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together with the Wellcome Trust. These two organisations are offering collective support of R120 million for the first phase of the project.
The technology transfer process will commence in January 2023, with the first clinical trial batches expected to be produced in 2024.