BioNTech was welcomed by its African partners as it formally began construction on the first local mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility. Located in Kigali, Rwanda, the facility will be equipped with two BioNTainers—turnkey production units designed for rapid set-up and scalability—and will operate on a climate-neutral basis using renewable energy.
The mRNA-based vaccines produced at the facility will be targeted to the needs of African Union member states. Candidates for production include BioNTech’s investigational malaria and tuberculosis vaccines, if successfully authorized, as well as Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, Africa produces less than 1% of the vaccines that it uses.
The BioNTainers, introduced in February, are scheduled to be delivered to the Rwandan site by the end of 2022, and manufacturing is expected to commence approximately 12 to 18 months after their installation. One of the two BioNTainers will produce mRNA; the other will produce formulated bulk drug product. The estimated initial annual capacity for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be about 50 million doses.
Hiring of initial local personnel has begun and will include about 20 roles. By 2024, the 30,000-square-meter facility is expected to employ about 100 staff, who will be running the production and all associated laboratory and quality assurance tasks on site.
Invited by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, attendees at the groundbreaking event in Kigali included BioNTech’s CEO Ugur Sahin and heads of state and government from Africa and around the world. During the event, BioNTech provided an update on the joint establishment of mRNA manufacturing facilities and the development plans for BioNTech’s malaria vaccine candidates, which will enter first-in-human trials later in 2022.
“I welcome BioNTech’s efforts to establish manufacturing sites and commence clinical trials of its malaria vaccine candidates,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO’s Director General. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for significantly greater local production of vaccines and other essential products in all regions of the world, especially in Africa, which relies heavily on imported products and was left behind in the global rush for COVID-19 vaccines.”
In addition to the Rwandan site, BioNTech plans to build mRNA vaccine factories in Senegal and South Africa.
As a supporter of The Paris Agreement, BioNTech has committed to operate its African manufacturing sites, including the initial plant in Rwanda, on a climate-neutral basis using renewable energy. Rwandan-based Izuba Energy will be supplying the mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility with renewable energy.