Billionaire to make vaccines in SA

NantWorks will transfer the technology within the next three months and vaccine production is expected to begin in 2022.

27 September 2021 | Economics

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong on Thursday said he will begin transferring technology to make Covid-19 and cancer vaccines in South Africa.

The South African-born and now United States-based doctor, provided details of the plan that will see coronavirus vaccine production starting next year in an online press conference with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Soon-Shiong's company NantWorks will transfer the technology within the next three months and vaccine production is expected to begin in 2022.

The government's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Medical Research Council and the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, as well as four local universities, according to a statement from Ramaphosa's office.

In addition to the vaccines, the NantWorks initiative will work on cell-based immunotherapies that could lead to new cancer treatments. The California-based physician Soon-Shiong said this is "a historic moment in my life, it's been a life dream to look at technologies we can bring back home".

"We are now set with the knowledge, technology to manufacture vaccines in Africa," he said. "It is my goal and hope that Africa will benefit from this technology." Ramaphosa described the investment, as "a game-changer" for South Africa.

"This collaboration will place South Africa, and Africa as a whole at the cutting edge of healthcare, science, technology and innovation," said Ramaphosa

Soon-Shiong made his fortune from the success of a cancer drug that he invented. His widely varied business interests include owning the Los Angeles Times as well as a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. -Nampa/AFP

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