President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed a new COVID-19 and cancer vaccine initiative launched by world-renowned Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong as a game changer for South Africa's healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry.
The initiative was launched by Dr Soon-Shiong’s digital healthcare company NantWorks. Its aim is to build pharmaceutical and vaccine capacity not only in South Africa but for the entire African continent.
This will kickstart the transfer technology used in the manufacturing of COVID-19 and cancer vaccines.
“The investment by NantWorks is most timely. For our fight against COVID-19, for infectious disease management, for cancer research and treatment, and for future pandemic preparedness,” President Ramaphosa said.
The initiative is a collaboration between NantWorks’ African division NantAfrica, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the South African Medical Research Council.
The collaboration is the third investment into the country’s pharmaceutical sector following the R10 billion investment into Aspen Pharmacare for the production of Africa’s COVID-19 vaccines and the World Health Organisation’s establishment of the mRNA manufacturing hub in the country.
Dr Soon-Shiong, who was born in South Africa but left the country during Apartheid, said the initiative is the realisation of a lifelong ambition.
“It has been a dream of mine, since I left the country as a young physician, to bring state-of-the-art, 21st century medical care to South Africa. This will enable the country to serve as a scientific hub for the continent,” said Dr Soon-Shiong.
He added that there were unmet needs to treat life-threatening infectious diseases such as AIDS, TB and now COVID-19.
“Of equal concern is the poor survival rate of patients suffering from cancer in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.
“The astounding advances in science have enabled new paradigms of care involving activating the immune system and changing outcomes for these diseases,” said Dr Soon-Shiong.