Soon-Shiong, who invented the drug Abraxane (known for its efficacy against several types of cancer) and founded the health start-up NantWorks, was born in South Africa and has hailed the plant’s launch as “one of the momentous moments of my life.”
The state-of-the-art plant is a collaborative effort between NantWorks, four local universities, and several South African research institutes. Before the end of 2022, the factory will have developed its first vials of second-generation COVID-19 vaccines; Soon-Shiong has predicted it will produce 1 billion doses annually by 2025.
There are currently two other manufacturing plants in South Africa that produce vaccines from semi-finished stages. At the end of 2021, only seven of 54 African countries reached the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40 percent of its citizens.
The new plant is being viewed as a symbol of Africa’s self-reliance, according to South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
“Africa should no longer be the last in line to access vaccines against pandemics, African should no longer go cap in hand to the Western world begging and begging for vaccines,” said Ramaphosa, vowing that the country would stand on its own.
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