Mathews Phosa. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI/SUNDAY TIMES
Mathews Phosa. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI/SUNDAY TIMES

Dyadic International, a US biotechnology company, joined the race to produce Covid-19 vaccines in Africa, the least-vaccinated continent.

On Tuesday, the Jupiter, Florida-based company announced a technology-transfer and licensing deal with SA’s Rubic Consortium, a newly formed group that includes Mathews Phosa, a former treasurer-general of the ANC.

The technology transfer will start immediately and the group will collaborate with Dyadic to do its phase 1 study on its current Covid-19 vaccine, said Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at Wits University, which is partnering with Rubic.

In October or November, Dyadic may begin an early-stage trial for the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidate after applying to the local health regulator for approval, said Madhi. Dyadic’s technology may later be used to develop other vaccines and treatments, he said.

“The bigger attraction of the platform is to be able to develop vaccines as well as monoclonal antibodies against other diseases,” Madhi said in an interview on Wednesday.

Dyadic’s entry into SA sees it joining ImmunityBio, part-owned by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, in planning to have Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in the country. Pfizer has agreed to have its vaccine made by the Cape Town-based Biovac Institute, but will supply the inoculation ingredients in a similar deal to that between Johnson & Johnson and Aspen Pharmacare.

“You need multiple role players in that space or else you are putting all your eggs in one basket,” said Madhi, who has led Covid-19 shot trials for AstraZeneca and Novavax in SA.

Rubic will have the right to manufacture vaccines using Dyadic’s C1-cell protein production platform in SA and to sell them to other African countries.

Should the early-stage trial be successful, Rubic will be responsible for the costs of a mid-stage trial.

To date, just 1.5% of Africa’s 1.2-billion people have been fully vaccinated.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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