Biovac to manufacture pneumococcal vaccine

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pretoria – Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor has officially launched a significant public-private partnership between global pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, and the Biovac Institute (Biovac), which aims to enable local manufacturing of a vaccine against pneumonia-causing bacteria.

Prevenar 13, which has proven to be effective in preventing pneumococcal infection in children from six weeks to five years and in adults of 50 years and older, will be manufactured at Biovac's new commercial-scale facility in Cape Town.

Minister Pandor said the partnership demonstrated South Africa's ability to do successful technology transfer in the bioeconomy space. Local manufacturing is due to start in 2020.

"This demonstration of successful technology transfer with Pfizer is one of the prerequisites for unlocking future technology transfers that will see Biovac becoming the major vaccine manufacturer in Africa," said Minister Pandor.

The Minister said this strategy would alleviate South Africa's continued dependence on imports and the consequent threat to security of supply of essential vaccines.

Jennifer Power, the South African Country Manager for Pfizer Inc. said: "Preventing pneumococcal disease is a priority for Pfizer in South Africa. We have already seen great results since vaccination was introduced and we are pleased to partner with Biovac, sharing best practices, knowledge and skills to continue to make a real difference for patients.

“We are confident that this partnership will help ensure the sustainable supply of our pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for patients in South Africa."

Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana said the company is committed to developing and establishing a strong and locally relevant vaccine capability, specifically vaccine process and product development in South Africa.

“We believe that this partnership with Pfizer will strengthen our ability to deliver a potentially life-saving vaccine for South African children, as well as accelerate our technological knowledge in vaccine development."

Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said the vaccine partnership should be celebrated as it would benefit not only South Africa but the whole Southern African region. 

"The launch of the local manufacture of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is a stepping stone to the ultimate dream of developing our own vaccines on the continent, for the continent."

Making the vaccine

The partnership facilitates technology transfer from Pfizer to Biovac in compliance with international Good Manufacturing Practice standards.

The process involves the formulation (combining 13 different strains or serotypes of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae) and filling a syringe with this combination vaccine (Prevenar 13), resulting in a prefilled syringe -- a new technology for Biovac.

Pfizer will also implement a skills-transfer process that will result in Biovac employees being able to continue with manufacturing the vaccines after the transfer period.

Biovac was established in 2003 as a public-private partnership with the aim of restructuring State vaccine assets to ensure domestic capacity in vaccine production, as well as a local skills base.

The Department of Health introduced Prevenar 13 to South Africa in 2011. Results from a laboratory-based survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2014, showed that the introduction of the vaccine in South Africa substantially reduced invasive pneumococcal infections in children ‑ one of the top five killers of children under the age of five. –

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