BioNTech gets $145 million funding for African vaccine plants

By Thomson Reuters May 29, 2024 | 7:04 AM

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -COVID-19 vaccine maker BioNTech has secured up to $145 million in funding from a global coalition against infectious diseases to build a production network in Africa for shots based on cutting-edge messenger-RNA (mRNA) technology.

BioNTech and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) said in a joint statement on Wednesday that the financial support was part of an expanded partnership as the German biotech firm builds an mRNA vaccine factory site in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

A future African network could produce affordable vaccines to fight malaria, mpox, tuberculosis or other health threats, they added.

“BioNTech and CEPI intend to work jointly to rapidly respond to outbreaks on the African continent caused by known viral threats, or an as-yet-unknown pathogen with epidemic or pandemic potential,” they said.

The funds pledged by CEPI come on top of up to $90 million that the coalition granted BioNTech in September to support the development of mpox vaccine candidates.

BioNTech said in December it aimed to start production at the modular mRNA vaccine factory site in Rwanda in 2025, the first foreign company mRNA vaccine manufacturing site on the continent.

It said at the time it had fully funded the facility, committing a total of $150 million.

The company, which developed the Western world’s most widely used COVID-19 shot with U.S. partner Pfizer, in 2022 laid out an initial plan to enable African countries to produce its shots under BioNTech’s supervision.

Rival Moderna in April paused its plans to build a vaccine manufacturing facility in Kenya, following a post-pandemic decline in demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

(Reporting by Ludwig BurgerEditing by Madeline Chambers and Mark Potter)