BioNTech SE said it would invest some of the profits from the Covid-19 vaccine it markets with Pfizer Inc. into developing shots for malaria and tuberculosis in Africa, part of the German company’s plan to establish a large production hub for innovative medicines on the continent.
The biotech firm plans to build a factory in Africa and develop a manufacturing network with local partners to transfer its technology based on messenger RNA, a genetic molecule, to a continent that has suffered from a lack of access to vaccines and other lifesaving treatment, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said.
The company’s new venture aims to produce a highly effective mRNA vaccine with durable protective immunity to prevent and eventually eradicate malaria, he said.
The move marks a further expansion into the infectious-diseases market for the company, which was founded to develop next-generation cancer treatments. BioNTech has created a dedicated infectious-diseases department and plans to announce further vaccine projects for other conditions this year, Dr. Sahin said.
Monday’s announcement follows months of debate about how to tackle Africa’s shortage of Covid-19 vaccines, which emerged after rich nations bought most of the available doses and many governments, including the U.S. and the world’s biggest vaccine maker, India, restricted exports.