The World Health Organization has tasked a South African biotech company with figuring out how to make an mRNA vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 that is similar to the one developed by Moderna, according to NPR.
The company, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, typically makes veterinary vaccines using conventional methods, it notes, but the WHO has given it $100 million to work on a SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-based vaccine for people. Once Afrigen has determined how to make the vaccine, it is to then serve as a technology transfer hub where other manufacturers can come and learn how to make it as well, NPR adds.
"There are regions on earth — the whole of Africa, for example, the whole of the Middle East — that really suffer because they've got no vaccine production capacity," the WHO's Martin Friede tells NPR.
Friede adds that they chose to emulate the Moderna vaccine as the company had said it would not enforce its intellectual property during the pandemic and that there is more information about its vaccine that is publicly available. A particular challenge, though, will be recapitulating the lipid nanoparticle that surrounds the mRNA, Petro Treblanche, the managing director of Afrigen, tells it, and adds that they also hope to make a version of the vaccine that is more stable at higher temperatures.