There is an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine under development at the World Health Organization-backed vaccine hub in South Africa but it could take about three years before it can even get approval if well-established big pharmaceutical companies do not share their technology and data, says a WHO official on Friday.
The tech transfer hub in South Africa was set up back in June with the aim of giving poorer nations the capability of producing COVID-19 vaccines after big pharmaceuticals such as Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna all declined to share technology and expertise upon a WHO request.
The coordinator of the initiative, Martin Friede said if those big pharmaceuticals with approved COVID vaccines or even late-stage clinical data shared their technology and data with the consortium, the vaccine developed in South Africa could be approved under 18 months.
“..It could be 12 months if there was a partnership with a company that already has an approved vaccine. Otherwise, it’s more like 24 to 36 months depending on what the approval process is.”
On Thursday, South Africa’s Afrigen Biologics, which was part of WHO’s consortium, said it has used the publicly available sequence of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine to make its own version of the shot.
However, WHO has been trying hard to persuade big pharmaceuticals such as Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to help join forces with its African tech transfer hub.
Friede said the vaccine will be going into the first clinical trials in the fourth quarter of this year.
“Now have the challenge of having to scale this up. And this is of course where we’re going to run into some challenges.”