BioNTech, a German biotechnology company based in Mainz, on Monday delivered containers of the first BioNTainer- facilities equipped to manufacture a range of mRNA-based vaccines at its plant in Rwanda.
Six BioNTainers, each consisting of drug substances and formula capable of producing 50 million to 100 million vaccine doses a year were received by Rwandan Minister of Health Sabin Nsanzimana, and Sierk Poetting, the chief operating officer of BioNTech.
The delivery came months after the company kicked off construction of its first manufacturing site for mRNA-based vaccines in Africa, in Rwanda’s Special Economic Zone, in the capital Kigali last year.
“We are bringing the solutions where the problem is. Currently, Africa consumes more than 89 percent of vaccines produced. We should have more vaccines and medicines produced here, and this is a step in that direction,” Nsanzimana told reporters after receiving the containers at the Kigali International Airport.
In a statement, the company described Monday’s delivery as another milestone in building scalable mRNA vaccine production in Africa.
It said BioNTech has been expanding its state-of-the-art mRNA-based drug and product candidate manufacturing facility in Kigali since breaking ground in June 2022.
“The manufacturing facility will initially house the first BioNTainers and become the first node in a decentralised and robust end-to-end production network in Africa,” the statement said.
In 2021, BioNTech signed deals with Rwanda and Senegalese Institut Pasteur de Dakar to set up manufacturing sites on the continent.
The first African mRNA manufacturing facility will be based on the BioNTainer concept, exact replications of the BioNTech factory in Germany.
The company also aims to develop plants in South Africa in close coordination with other partners to make vaccines for the continent.
Besides COVID vaccines, BioNTech has also advanced programs to develop mRNA-based vaccine candidates against malaria and tuberculosis.
The malaria vaccine candidate BNT165 entered clinical trials in December 2022, according to the company, while the tuberculosis vaccine candidate BNT164 is also expected to enter clinical trials.