On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will host the first World Health Organization-backed COVID-19 mRNA vaccine Technology Transfer Hub – an initiative designed to get the production of mRNA vaccines off the ground in Africa. Parties involved in the hub expect to hear as early as next week whether pharmaceutical companies with mRNA COVID-vaccines for COVID-19 on the market – Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech – will share their know-how with the hub. Chris Bateman reports for Spotlight.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, have been hailed for their manufacturing advantages over conventional vaccines – so much so that African leaders such as President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for mRNA production capacity to be developed in Africa. Catherine Tomlinson examines why mRNA vaccines are easier to make than some other types of vaccines and asks what it will take to build such production capacity.
Biopharmaceuticals are therapeutic drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics in which the active ingredient is produced in a living substance such as eggs or tobacco plants. The living substance acts as a ‘miniature factory’ in which the active ingredient is grown and replicated. Catherine Tomlinson takes a deep dive into the fascinating research and other initiatives in South Africa aimed at spurring local production of these products – and asks why a Cape Town-based company opted to set up a manufacturing plant in Mauritius rather than at home.
Local researchers have welcomed impressive phase III findings for the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine published this week in the Lancet medical journal. It is the sixth COVID-19 vaccine found to be effective in preliminary data from a phase III randomised controlled trial and the fourth to have phase III findings published in a leading medical journal.
While progress in the race for effective COVID-19 vaccines has been rapid and impressive, an effective HIV vaccine remains elusive. As part of Spotlight’s World AIDS Day 2020 coverage, Kathryn Cleary asks two of South Africa’s top vaccine researchers to update us on where we are in the race for an HIV vaccine.
The head of the South African arm of a key COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial is “full of pride” for the teams’ part in the research which has shown the vaccine candidate to be more than 90% effective according to early findings released this week. It however remains unclear whether the vaccine will be available in South Africa once registered. Adele Baleta reports.