Cases: Plant-based manufacturing of affordable proteins

May 13, 2023 | Media

African manufacturing of proteins needed for the vaccines, rapid testing kits and treatments of COVID-19 and other endemic diseases will be transformed by the extension of Cape Biologix Technologies existing factory in Cape Town, followed by the construction of a new facility in Mauritius.
The large-scale cGMP manufacturing facility aims to ensure the supply of crucial reagents for the production of 100 million vaccines a month for distribution across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. The support will enable Cape Biologix to substantially enlarge manufacturing capacity, expand laboratory processing and build climate controlled hydroponic grow rooms to provide plant-made proteins for prevention, testing and treatment of COVID-19 and other endemic diseases. 

Belinda Shaw, CEO of Cape Biologix Technologies Ltd; Hon. Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town; Dr. Wolfram Otto, Investor

Initiated by kENUP Foundation, new financing from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and FIND (the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics) for the EUR 47.5 million project was formally agreed earlier today. The EIB will provide EUR 33.3 million for the specialist manufacturing plant in Mauritius. This has been complemented by EUR 3.2m provided by FIND that is being used to fund the rapid scale-up of the pilot phase production in Cape Town, South Africa.
“Scaling up medical innovation and specialist manufacturing is crucial to control COVID-19 and combat other diseases that can be treated, but for which treatments are not accessible to many in African countries. The European Investment Bank, as part of Team Europe, is pleased to provide EUR 33 million to support Cape Biologix to expand pharmaceutical production, create jobs and increase access to affordable disease testing and treatment across Africa and around the world by increasing the affordability of key proteins. This new investment, backed by the EIB and FIND, is bringing world class research from laboratories in Cape Town to improve the lives of millions of people.” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice President.
“Local innovation and manufacturing are critical to ensuring that quality tests can reach all who need them. We are very happy to build on our longstanding relationships in South Africa to work together on this transformative project with Cape Bio, in partnership with the EIB, translating exciting research into tangible products that will benefit everyone in the region. Building local capacity is not only needed today for COVID-19, but will also improve South Africa’s preparedness to respond to future threats.” said Dr Catharina Boehme, CEO of FIND.
“Effective and affordable testing and vaccinations are crucial to tackle COVID-19, HIV and other diseases causing immense health, social and economic harms to human health across Africa and around the world. Cape Bio Pharms, the holding Company of Cape Biologix, has successfully shown how plant protein can quickly and economically produce proteins essential for disease testing and therapy. Support from the European Investment Bank and FIND will unlock large scale production of COVID-19 tests and vaccines here in Africa and unlock large scale specialist production to combat HIV and a range of diseases impacting millions of people around the world. 
Today is a milestone for medical research in Africa and global public health. To get a start-up off the ground takes enormous effort and I am extremely grateful for the early investment by Dr Wolfus Otto and Richard Radtke, but more so for the strategic Business Development and scale up expertise that Dr Otto has provided to get us to the this fantastic milestone” said Belinda Shaw, Cape Bio Pharms CEO.
“Team Europe is committed to strengthening healthcare resilience and innovation in Africa. Supported by the European Investment Bank and global partners, this new investment will create skilled jobs in Mauritius and use world-class African research to improve public health around the world and it reconfirms the high attractiveness of Mauritius as a place to do business, located at the crossroad between Africa and Asia.” said Vincent Degert, European Union Ambassador to Mauritius.
Cape Bio Pharms is a spin-off from the University of Cape Town. The young company has successfully developed a wide range of antibodies, fusion proteins, peptides and enzymes. These contribute to critical research by life scientists around the world and accelerate the search for new diagnosis and treatments to the onslaught of human diseases.
“The western world is not in the habit of turning to Africa for solutions to global problems – even though we Africans have the innovative mindset as well as hands-on experience of the challenges the world faces. The European Investment Bank is demonstrating its commitment not only to the poor around the world who will benefit from Cape Bio Pharms innovation, but also to the ability of African-based research and technology to address a critical health need we all share.” said Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.
The new EIB financing for Cape Bio is provided under the dedicated Impact Financing Facility that supports high-impact innovative and development focused investment across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.It was announced at a virtual signing ceremony attended by the CEO of Cape Bio Pharms, Vice President of the European Investment Bank, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Board Member of FIND, and EU Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa.
A short version of the recorded live event can be found here, the full length event is documented here
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