Univercells, Batavia Biosciences on tap to help bring affordable measles and rubella shots to Africa

Another vaccine manufacturing effort has kicked off in Africa, this time centered around access to low-cost measles and rubella shots.

For this project, Senegal’s Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD) is teaming up with CDMO Batavia Biosciences and biologics manufacturing specialist Univercells, with funding help coming from the Gates Foundation.

Specifically, IPD will deploy Batavia’s Hip-Vax intensified production process for measles and rubella vaccine material. The team will wed the technology with Univercells Technologies’ NevoLine Upstream platform in a bid to accelerate manufacturing and boost affordable access to the essential vaccines in Africa.

Production will take place at a regional manufacturing hub in Dakar called MADIBA, which has been used to make vaccines against COVID-19 and other epidemic diseases, IPD explained in a release. The hub boasts capacity to produce 300 million vaccines doses per year for Africa.

The initiative represents the culmination of nearly six years of work on Univercells’ cost-efficient vaccine production platform.

Back in 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shelled out $12 million in initial funding to help Univercells develop a “breakthrough vaccine manufacturing platform” designed to slash costs. In total, the Gates Foundation has provided more than $17 million for the project, which Univercells first rolled out in proof-of-concept format back in September 2019.

Meanwhile, the IPD collaboration is just the latest instance of the biopharma industry working to build production capacity in Africa.

Earlier this month, Bayer’s Egypt unit unveiled a three-year strategy to crank out 60% to 70% of its over-the-counter consumer drugs in the North African country locally. To see the plan through, Bayer will invest 240 million Egyptian pounds (about $12.2 million) in domestic manufacturing.

Elsewhere, Pfizer and BioNTech’s South African production partner Biovac recently wrapped up the first doses of the partners’ COVID-19 vaccine from its facility in Cape Town, Bloomberg first reported in September.

And this isn’t IDP’s first team-up this year, either. Back in August, the organization opened a new front in its push to enable low-cost access to vaccines. Specifically, the foundation said it would team up with medtech player Satio to advance shot candidates based on intradermal delivery patch technology.