The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged a $40 million investment to assist multiple African manufacturers in producing messenger RNA vaccines on the continent.
Institut Pasteur and South Africa's Biovac will utilize an mRNA research and manufacturing platform developed by Quantoom Biosciences in Belgium.
Both vaccine manufacturers will receive $5 million in funding from the foundation, with an additional $10 million allocated for unnamed companies.
The remaining $20 million will support Quantoom in advancing the technology and reducing costs.
Messenger RNA vaccine technology gained prominence with the development of COVID-19 vaccines by companies like Pfizer and Moderna. This approach employs genetic code fragments to instruct the body to produce specific proteins, effectively transforming it into a miniature vaccine production facility.
“The idea is that many of the future vaccines, whether it's for local diseases in Africa like Rift Valley or for global diseases like TB, mRNA looks like a very promising approach. And so it allows us to bring in lots of African capabilities to work on these vaccines, and then this can be scaled up,” explained Bill Gates.
This initiative aims to address the disparity in vaccine distribution, as Africa was one of the last regions to receive COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.
Although it may take up to three more years for these vaccines to gain approval and enter the market, the foundation views this mRNA investment as a significant stride toward achieving vaccine equity.