Pfizer will transfer manufacturing tech for Prevenar 13

Biovac plant in Cape Town--Courtesy of Biovac Institute

South Africa's Biovac Institute is getting a big shot in the arm from Pfizer ($PFE). The U.S. drugmaker has agreed to transfer to the public-private group the technology necessary for it to produce Pfizer's best-selling vaccine, Prevenar 13.

Jennifer Power, Pfizer's country manager for South Africa, told Reuters the transfer and training is expected to take 5 years with the idea that the institute will start production of the vaccine in 2020.

The idea is to cut the cost of the vaccine against pneumonia, for which the government currently expends 40% of its annual vaccine budget, according to Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor. The government currently pays 184.90 rand ($13.45) per dose of Prevenar 13.

South Africa's Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor

"There is more that we can do to cut the costs of the vaccine, and that is to manufacture the vaccine here in Cape Town," Pandor said at a news conference, as quoted by Reuters.

The announcement was made at Biovac's manufacturing facilities in Cape Town. The institute, in which the government holds a 47% stake, says it has invested R500 million ($36 million) in the facility and in training since its creation in 2003. There was no indication of whether additional investments would be needed in the plant for Biovac to be capable of producing Pfizer's vaccine.

Reuters reports the facility manufactures more than 25 million doses of vaccines a year to fight a range of diseases, including tuberculosis and polio. But last year the institute was in the news and blamed by some government officials for a shortage of polio vaccine, eNCA has reported.

- read the Reuters story