NantAfrica, a division of US multinational NantWorks, has signed a collaboration agreement with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) for the transfer of biologic manufacturing technology for Covid-19 and cancer vaccines and next-generation cell-based immunotherapies.
NantWorks founder and CEO Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong says the initiative will enable the rapid clinical development of next-generation vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer at centres of excellence across the country.
The partnership between NantWorks, the CSIR and the SAMRC is aimed at expediting and expanding the manufacturing of biologics, immunotherapeutics and vaccines in South Africa through technology transfer and state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facilities.
NantAfrica, a division of NantWorks created to coordinate the initiative, and the CSIR will implement state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing capacity to expedite transfer of Covid-19 and cancer vaccine biologics within the next three months and scale up capacity in and for Africa by 2022.
NantWorks has entered into agreements to invest in large-scale manufacturing facilities and a biologics manufacturing campus in the Western Cape and will begin the transfer of technology, know-how and materials for DNA, RNA, adjuvant vaccine platforms and cell therapy in the next three months in partnership with the CSIR and SAMRC.
The initiative, President Cyril Ramaphosa says, will assist in building on existing capacities and expertise within South Africa.
“An extensive network of collaboration has now been established with Dr Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks and NantAfrica entities to build capacity and a knowledge base in South Africa; to expedite the development of twenty-first-century immunotherapy for cancer and infectious disease; and to position South Africa as a science and medicine hub of innovation for all of Africa.”
Soon-Shiong notes that there is an unmet need to treat life-threatening infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and Covid-19.
Of equal concern, he adds, is the poor survival rate of patients suffering from cancer in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.
“It has been a dream of mine, since I left the country as a young physician, to bring state-of-the-art, twenty-first-century medical care to South Africa and to enable the country to serve as a scientific hub for the continent. We are privileged to have the opportunity to bring 30 years of clinical, scientific and advanced biological know-how to the country and establish much needed capacity and self-sufficiency," he states.
The launch of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in collaboration with the SAMRC and the universities of Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal will enhance rapid genomic surveillance of and response to viral mutations occurring in Africa.
The launch of further clinical centres of excellence for the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases will be established through a collaboration with the SAMRC and the universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal.