Moderna has unveiled its plans to set up its first manufacturing facility in Africa. The facility will be set up in Kenya to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines but also other mRNA treatments.
The company has an estimated investment of nearly $500M in the vaccine manufacturing plant with the ability to produce nearly 500M mRNA vaccine doses annually, to be supplied across the African continent.
The Kenyan facility is expected to become operational and start the supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming year, while previously the estimates for this production were on a longer timeline of 3-4 years.
The facility is especially important as the continent has been significantly slower than others in vaccinating its population during this pandemic. A push to manufacture and distribute its own COVID-19 vaccine has been made as a result.
The Kenyan President remarked that this lag in vaccination in the continent was due to problems of access to the vaccine and there is a space in pharmaceutical manufacturing in the continent that Moderna can occupy.
Modern is a relatively new company, founded a decade ago but since then it has made great strides in the pharmaceutical industry. Presently, the company is working on over 15 vaccine candidates for various latent and immediate threats, ranging from Zika virus to Ebola through research and clinical trials.
A company representative explained that while Moderna is at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, it will continue to work on other dangerous pathogens as well and focus on developing other mRNA vaccines at its African plant.
In South Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) had helped build a technology transfer hub in order to improve access of developing countries to vaccine manufacturing knowledge, specifically COVID-19 vaccines.
WHO had been trying to onboard the pharma giants Moderna and Pfizer but have not been successful so far.
Afrigen Biologics, WHO- backed South african pharma manufacturer has stated that while it has not been able to receive assistance from U.S. based Moderna yet, it will be producing a similar version of Moderna’s vaccine.
Moderna had been gearing up for an African facility since the previous year, after gauging the consistent demand for the COVID-19 vaccine amidst the pandemic. The company now plans on setting up a $500M manufacturing facility in Kenya to meet this need.
The Kenyan facility is expected to include the manufacturing of the actual vaccine substance with the option to include fill-finish as well as packaging within the plant.
Currently, Moderna manufactures its vaccine in Massachusetts, in the U.S. The company has the aim of producing and distributing 3B doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this year.
Analysts have predicted that Moderna will have made over $19B sales of COVID vaccine in the last year, with estimates of another $15B sales in this current year.
With lockdowns ceasing across the world, specially in Europe and the United States, there is a predicted possibility of a downturn in sales as these are Moderna’s main markets. Nonetheless, the need for COVID vaccines, as well as vaccines for future pandemics overall remains.