South African-American billionaire biotechnology entrepreneur Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong announced on Wednesday that his corporation and his philanthropic foundation would commit an initial 3 billion South African rand (about $210 million) to transfer the latest technology for producing vaccines and biological therapies to South Africa.
Companies there, he said, could then use them to make a second generation of vaccines to address variants of the coronavirus that might make current vaccines less effective, reports the New York Times.
Soon-Shiong spoke at an international meeting on the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics that was co-chaired by the director-general of the World Health Organization.
Transferring the technology is as important as waiving intellectual property rights, Soon-Shiong said.
"Our goal and our commitment is to come back to South Africa and transfer this kind of technology," he said.
Referring to South Africa, he said, "Not only do we have the science, we have the human capital and the capacity and the desire."
He said he hoped that the technology, including therapies and vaccines built on viral vectors, messenger RNA and adjuvants, would be used not only to meet the immediate coronavirus crisis, but also to address neglected diseases including schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection common in sub-Saharan Africa.
South Africa, which has had the most confirmed coronavirus cases on the continent, has two manufacturers, Biovac and Aspen Pharmacare, that are involved in producing coronavirus vaccines.
Earlier this year, Biovac announced a partnership with Patrick Soon-Shiong's company ImmunityBio to help produce an experimental coronavirus vaccine based on an adenovirus vector. The vaccine is in clinical trials in the United States and South Africa.