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Afrigen to collaborate with NIAID on mRNA vaccine research

The research collaboration will enable the sharing of technical skills and materials to expedite Afrigen’s goal of mRNA vaccine production.

Messenger RNA (mRNA)

Afrigen Biologics and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have agreed to share technical expertise related to the development of next-generation messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and therapeutics.  

“The pursuit of effective vaccines for human diseases to improve public health is central to the mission of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center. This collaboration allows us to exchange scientific expertise to further this mission and support Afrigen’s globally important research and vaccine discovery efforts,” commented Dr Richard Koup, Acting Director of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC).

Goals of the collaboration include sharing knowledge and expertise to help enable production of large amounts of DNA, in the mRNA in vitro transcription process, lipid nanoparticle formulation and, upon mutual agreement, research on next generation mRNA-based vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, influenza, cancer associated viruses such as HPV, and other diseases of importance in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The collaboration will also allow for exchange of scientific data with technical achievements to be shared with the scientific community at conferences and events. Site visits are planned, with Afrigen expected to visit the VRC in Maryland, US, later this year. 

“Through this collaboration, the mRNA Hub at Afrigen can fast track the end-to-end Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) of the first clinical trial material of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” noted Professor Petro Terblanche, Afrigen Managing Director. “The VRC’s technical expertise in plasmid DNA manufacturing promises to be an invaluable contribution to building capacity and capabilities for mRNA vaccine production at Afrigen.”

VRC conducts basic, translational and clinical research to design and develop prototype vaccines and biologics to protect against infectious diseases. It is operated by NIAID, one of 27 centres that make up the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Afrigen is part of the mRNA technology transfer hub programme, which was established by the COVAX Vaccine Manufacturing Taskforce in June 2021. Led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), this programme is a global initiative that aims to improve health and health security by establishing sustainable, locally owned mRNA manufacturing capabilities in and for low- and middle-income countries.