Gates Foundation to accelerate mRNA vaccine innovation and manufacturing in Africa and globally

Published: 12-Oct-2023

At the 2023 Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, Bill Gates announced new investments to advance access to mRNA research and vaccine manufacturing technology that will support low- and middle-income countries’ (LMICs) capacity to develop high-quality, lifesaving vaccines at scale

The move builds on lessons the foundation has learned from more than 20 years of working with vaccine manufacturers in LMICs and the opportunity to leverage recent scientific advances to develop low-cost, high-quality health tools that reach more people around the world.

mRNA technology is considered a potential game-changer for a range of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria and Lassa fever, which disproportionately affect people in LMICs.

“Putting innovative mRNA technology in the hands of researchers and manufacturers in Africa and around the world will help ensure more people benefit from next-generation vaccines,” said Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, Nigeria’s co-ordinating minister of health and social welfare and a global expert on vaccines.

“This collaboration is an encouraging step that will increase access to critical health technologies and help African countries develop vaccines that meet the needs of their people.”

This new technology can significantly lower the costs of mRNA research and manufacturing and enable expanded access — helping to close critical gaps.

The foundation announced a total of $40 million in funding to advance access to Quantoom Biosciences’ low-cost, mRNA research and manufacturing platform, which was developed with an early research Grand Challenges grant made to its parent company, Univercells.

The Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD) and Biovac, research institutes with vaccine manufacturing experience based in Senegal and South Africa, respectively, will receive $5 million each to acquire the technology and will be able to use it to develop locally relevant vaccines.

Gates Foundation to accelerate mRNA vaccine innovation and manufacturing in Africa and globally

To further advance the technology and lower costs for commercialisation, the foundation also will provide $20 million to Quantoom Biosciences, ensuring that LMICs can benefit from the next-generation mRNA health tools. The Gates Foundation will grant another $10 million to other LMIC vaccine manufacturers to be named.
“Expanding our capacity to discover and manufacture affordable mRNA vaccines in Africa is an important and necessary step towards vaccine self-reliance in the region,” said Dr Amadou Sall, CEO of IPD.

“We welcome this new funding, which will promote the development of lifesaving technologies on the continent while also contributing to global health security by expanding the supply and access to vaccines — allowing us to achieve greater health equity worldwide.”

“Innovation can be transformative, but only if it reaches the people who need it most,” said Morena Makhoana, CEO of Biovac. “This collaboration will help close critical gaps in access to promising mRNA vaccines against diseases that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest. It will also assist us in our mission to establish end-to-end vaccine manufacturing capability at scale in Africa for global supply."

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“Expanding the availability of affordable, high-quality vaccines that meet the needs of local communities is one of the best ways to improve global health outcomes and reduce preventable deaths,” said Trevor Mundel, President of the foundation’s Global Health Division.

“By lowering barriers to access for low- and middle-income countries, we can help ensure more people around the world benefit from lifesaving health innovation.”
“The development of new vaccines is costly, resource intensive and concentrated in high-income countries,” said José Castillo, CEO of Quantoom Biosciences.

“We’re thrilled to partner with IPD and Biovac to scale our technology in Senegal and South Africa and help increase access to novel mRNA vaccines — one of medicine’s most promising new tools.” 

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