Sanofi and Pfizer engage Biovac Institute with vaccines production in South Africa

Facility in Cape Town will start production of Sanofi’s Hexaxim in 2020, and Pfizer’s anti-pneumonia Prevnar 13 in 2021

Morena Makhoana, CEO of South Africa's Biovac Institute of South Africa has revealed that the centre in Cape Town will start production of Sanofi's hexavalent in the third quarter of 2020, Reuters has reported.

The plant is set to produce four million doses of Hexaxim vaccine a year. The site also has the capacity to ramp up the operation as it explores new markets in neighbouring Namibia, Mozambique and Angola, Makhoana said.

On this particular six-in-one vaccine we are the only tech transfer partner with Sanofi in the world, so we are very proud

The new production lines follow years of technology transfers and skills upgrades with partners Sanofi and Pfizer in Africa’s largest pharmaceutical market. Details of the partnership have not been disclosed.

Makhoana said Biovac has also made progress preparing Prevnar 13, Pfizer’s pneumonia vaccine for infants. The manufacturer expects a full output of 3 million doses to start in the first half of 2021.

Under a five-year agreement signed with Pfizer in 2015, Biovac has only packaged labelled syringes but it is now acquiring the formulation and filling processes ahead of the new product line launch.

Public-private partnership

The local output of the two human vaccines is a step-change for Biovac, a public-private partnership 47.5%-owned by the South African government. The remaining equity is owned by a consortium led by local investment holding firm Immunotek.

Makhoana told Reuters that Biovac’s dose of Hexaxim, a six-in-one vaccine for several diseases including diphtheria, tetanus and polio, is the only one in the world that is fully liquid, and unlike other versions on the market, does not have to be mixed before injecting. This makes it easier to administer in remote and resource-poor clinics across Africa.

“On this particular six-in-one vaccine we are the only tech transfer partner with Sanofi in the world, so we are very proud,” Makhoana told Reuters.

Sanofi said it will continue to invest in South Africa’s vaccine programme as it looks to bolster its market share in the region.

Merilynn Matthew, head of Sanofi’s South African vaccines unit, commented: “South Africa, and Africa for that matter, is an emerging market and showing strong growth year-on-year and hence will remain a priority for Sanofi."

Commenting on the security of supply, Makhoana said: “Security of supply is one big issue and the second is the economic benefits local production brings while making sure that prices are equally benchmarked and South Africa pays a fair price in line with other middle-income countries such as Brazil or Turkey."

Headquartered in Cape Town, the Biovac Institute is the result of a partnership formed with the South African government in 2003 to establish vaccine manufacturer in South Africa. The company partners with various organisations across the vaccine value chain, from development to manufacturing and distribution.

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