BioNTech Secures $145M to Boost mRNA Vaccine Capabilities in Africa

BioNTech_iStock

Pictured: BioNTech's sign at its headquarters in Germany/iStock, U. J. Alexander

BioNTech on Wednesday expanded its strategic partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, securing $145 million in funding to boost its mRNA vaccine footprint in Africa.

The German biotech will use the funding to enhance the mRNA vaccine research and development capacity of its facility in Kigali, Rwanda. The investment will also help BioNTech improve the clinical and commercial-scale manufacturing capacity of the facility, with the goal of contributing to better preparedness against future epidemics and pandemics in Africa.

“Africa still has to import 99% of all the vaccines it needs to protect its people from potentially deadly diseases, meaning many are left waiting far too long to get the life-saving doses they need,” Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said in a statement.

Through its agreement with BioNTech, the partnership is helping to “boost regional capacity for end-to-end research, development and rapid manufacturing of mRNA vaccines,” Hatchett said,.  which will “contribute to Africa’s resilience and pandemic preparedness and could dramatically alter the course of future outbreaks.”

The initial agreement, signed in September 2023, gave BioNTech up to $90 million in funding from CEPI to advance BTN166, an mRNA vaccine candidate for mpox. The agreement was in response to the 2022 mpox outbreak that quickly became an international cause for concern.

In expanding the agreement on Wednesday, BioNTech has agreed to dedicate up to half of its facility’s manufacturing capacity to produce mRNA vaccines in case of public health emergencies.

In addition to boosting its manufacturing capabilities, BioNTech will use CEPI’s funding to secure regulatory authorization for its Rwanda facility, as well as support pre-clinical and clinical research activities of African-based researchers, local businesses and non-profits. BioNTech will also develop vaccines for other infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

Wednesday’s expanded contract comes as BioNTech struggles to find its footing in a post-pandemic world. In the first quarter of 2024, the German biotech reported $202 million in total revenue, a sharp drop from nearly $1.38 billion during the same period in 2023. Net loss during Q1 was $340 million or $1.41 per share.

While BioNTech is expanding its footprint in Africa, Moderna last month said it is pausing plans to build an mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya to buy time to assess vaccine demand after being hit with $1 billion in losses and write-downs due to canceled orders.

BioNTech has been turning to cancer to plot its path forward. In October 2023, the biotech put more than $1 billion on the line in a partnership with Suzhou-based MediLink Therapeutics to develop next-generation antibody-drug conjugates for oncology indications.

In January 2024, BioNTech paid $20 million to gain exclusive development rights to two preclinical antibodies from WuXi Biologics, though the targets for these assets have yet to be disclosed. A month later, the biotech struck a $250 million partnership with Autolus Therapeutics to advance both of their CAR-T therapies.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

Back to news