President Muhammadu Buhari has received the exploratory interactions, between Nigerian biomedical scientists and BioNTech company to support the production of mRNA vaccines in Nigeria.
President Buhari who met with Mr. Holm Keller, the Executive Chairman of KENUP Foundation and representative of the CEO of BioNTech, the mRNA vaccine patent holder, in Africa on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said considering the vast inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccines at the peak of the pandemic, Nigeria and many middle-income countries now appreciate the need for global decentralization and diversification of manufacturing capacity for items critical for public health security.
Buhari expressed confidence that the interactions between the parties would be productive, leading to collaborations at many levels, from clinical trials to research and development of new vaccines and eventually support vaccine manufacturing facilities in the country.
President Buhari said: ‘‘We are impressed with the numerous possibilities said to be around the mRNA technology and hence seek cooperation with well-intentioned organisations, including yours, to build a strong bilateral partnership with your company and your affiliate bodies, as science gets closer to understanding the possibilities around successful mRNA technology.
‘‘We believe the mRNA technology will help solve other public health challenges too, especially those peculiar to our tropical environment.
‘‘As you conduct exploratory interactions with our scientists in the biomedical field and officials of the Ministry of Health, I look forward to receiving a commitment to expand collaboration to achieve our goal of developing capacities for Research & Development and manufacturing.’’
He urged the team to show commitment in collaborating with the country’s stakeholders in the health sector with goal of creating foundation for research and development of robust pharmaceutical infrastructure in order to cater to the health care needs in the country.
President Buhari said “Nigeria and many middle-income countries now appreciate the need for global decentralization and diversification of manufacturing capacity of items critical for public health security.”
The President also used the occasion to highlight the many investment opportunities and potentials in the country, urging the Foundation and other prospective investors to pay ‘‘special attention’’ to Africa’s most populous country.
‘‘KENUP Foundation will find in Nigeria, a suitable research & development ecosystem in terms of human resource expertise and endemic, deadly disease challenges that require research to help to end with new vaccines.
‘‘Our reputable scientific community has the capacity to engage with you meaningfully in all caliber of research and to add value to your joint effort.
‘‘Nigeria has a long tradition in vaccine manufacturing and laboratories for microbiological research, both in private and public facilities, and also for human and veterinary vaccine research, established over 80 years ago. You will find in Nigeria, biosafety Level 3 laboratories and ongoing initiatives with trusted partners to develop Level 4 capacity too.”
‘‘We have a vibrant Health Ethics Research Council and our WHO Maturity Level 3 certified Regulatory body, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control regulates vaccines, and have started the process to attain Maturity Level Four, that makes pharmaceutical products made in Nigeria, including vaccines, marketable abroad.
‘‘We invest significantly in health, education, in Research and Development and encourage discovery and partnership in joint ventures, such as with a private pharmaceutical company to begin routine vaccines manufacturing in-country,’’ the President explained.
President Buhari, who described Nigeria as the gateway to West African business and commerce, and the preferred destination for ECOWAS citizens in search of markets, added that Bio-vaccines Nigeria Limited, a Public Private Partnership company and other private companies are at varying stages of acquiring capacities for local manufacturing of vaccines.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said President Buhari has “passion for public health security, hence your receiving this team,” which he added was around to explore possibilities of collaboration in manufacture of new vaccines.
Mr Holm Keller described his organisation as a public-benefit foundation dedicated to innovation in public health.
He expressed his delight at learning of the outstanding work President Buhari and his government have done for Nigeria, adding that “the goal of our mission is to build research partnerships that would help Nigeria and Africa.”