Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and NantAfrica, a division of NantWorks, announced the official launch of an ambitious initiative to build capacity for advanced health care and innovative research in Africa. The initiative will entail partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and major South African universities.
The announcement was made on the eve of Heritage Day at an international media conference hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
NantWorks, LLC applies new innovative approaches and new technologies to solving global problems. NantWorks is the parent company of various private and public entities focusing on three pillars: health & life sciences; energy & renewables; and connectivity & communications.
Founded by South African born and educated Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, scientist and inventor of the first human nanoparticle chemotherapeutic agent Abraxane, the core mission for NantWorks is convergence: to develop and deliver a diverse range of technologies that accelerate innovation, broaden the scope of scientific discovery, enhance ground-breaking research, and improve healthcare treatment for those in need.
NantWorks is a multinational, California-based conglomerate that is leading the digital revolution in healthcare, technology and media through the harnessing of science, digital infrastructure, supercomputing and communication.
NantWorks LLC has signed a collaboration agreement with the CSIR and the SAMRC that will initiate the transfer of biologic manufacturing technology for COVID-19 and cancer vaccines and next-generation cell-based immunotherapies. This will enable the rapid clinical development of next generation vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer at centers of excellence across the country.
“It has been a dream of mine, since I left the country as a young physician, to bring state-of-the-art, 21st century medical care to South Africa and to enable the country to serve as a scientific hub for the continent,” said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder and CEO of NantWorks.
“There is such an unmet need to treat life-threatening infectious diseases such as AIDS, TB and now COVID-19. Of equal concern is the poor survival rate of patients suffering from cancer in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa. The astounding advances in science have enabled new paradigms of care involving activating the immune system and changing outcomes for these diseases.
“We are privileged to have the opportunity to bring 30 years of clinical, scientific and advanced biological know-how to the country and establish much needed capacity and self-sufficiency.”
The partnership between NantWorks, the CSIR and the SAMRC will expedite and expand manufacturing of biologics, immunotherapeutics and vaccines in South Africa through technology transfer and state-of-the art advanced manufacturing facilities.
- NantAfrica, a division of NantWorks created to coordinate the initiative, and the CSIR will implement state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing capacity to expedite transfer of COVID-19 and cancer vaccine biologics within the next three months and scale up capacity in and for Africa by 2022.
- The launch of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) in collaboration with the SAMRC and Universities of Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal, in tandem with the partnership, will enhance rapid genomic surveillance of and response to viral mutations occurring in Africa.
- The launch of clinical centres of excellence for the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, HIV/AIDS and TB, will be established through a collaboration with the SAMRC and Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal
NantWorks has entered into agreements to invest in large-scale manufacturing facilities and a biologics manufacturing campus in the Western Cape and will begin transfer of technology, know-how and materials for DNA, RNA, adjuvant vaccine platforms and cell therapy in the next three months in partnership with the CSIR and SAMRC.
President Ramaphosa welcomed this significant investment and the commitment of Dr. Soon-Shiong to South Africa as his birthplace. The President said: “It was a homecoming moment when I met Dr. Soon-Shiong and we saw an opportunity to strengthen our scientific and technological capacity; an opportunity to address the public health challenges experienced in South Africa and the continent and leapfrog to cutting edge technology. This technology transfer, including manufacturing biologics, will reinforce vaccine equity sorely needed globally.”
This initiative will build on existing capacities and expertise within South Africa. An extensive network of collaboration has now been established with Dr. Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks and NantAfrica entities to build capacity and a knowledge base in South Africa; to expedite the development of 21st century immunotherapy for cancer and infectious disease, and to position South Africa as a science and medicine hub of innovation for all of Africa.
The South Africa-based collaborative network includes the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC); the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI); the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal; the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA), as well as the cancer and infectious disease clinical centres of excellence.