Moderna finalized an agreement with Kenya’s government on Monday to build the U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant’s first manufacturing facility for mRNA vaccines on the African continent, Africanews reported Tuesday.

Moderna announced the development in a press release issued on March 7. The pharmaceutical and biotech company said it signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Kenya to construct a manufacturing center for mRNA-based vaccine products and candidates — including those against the Chinese coronavirus, HIV, and the Nipah virus — in the coming months.

A Maasai woman is inoculated with a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Oltepesi Dispensary in Kajiado, Kenya, on September 9, 2021. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP via Getty Images)

A Maasai woman is inoculated with a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Oltepesi Dispensary in Kajiado, Kenya, on September 9, 2021. (Photo by PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Moderna said it plans to invest up to $500 million towards the business deal with the goal of producing up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines per year for the African continent. The Kenya-based factory, which has yet to be built, will “focus on drug substance manufacturing,” though its functions could later expand to include “fill/finish and packaging capabilities at the site.”

The U.S. government helped coordinate Moderna’s mRNA vaccine deal with Kenya, according to Moderna’s March 7 press release. The statement included remarks acknowledging Washington’s role in the vaccine deal by Moderna CEO St├ęphane Bancel and Moderna co-Founder and Chairman Noubar Afeyan.

Bancel wrote:

With our mRNA global public health vaccine program, including our vaccine programs against HIV and Nipah, and with this partnership with the Republic of Kenya, the African Union and the U.S. Government, we believe that this step will become one of many on a journey to ensure sustainable access to transformative mRNA innovation on the African continent and positively impact public health.

Afeyan wrote:

We would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Kenya for their support in bringing our mRNA manufacturing facility to Kenya, and thank the U.S. Government for assisting us in this process.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a statement to announce the Moderna deal on March 7. He acknowledged the manufacturing site had the potential to benefit Kenya’s economy, writing, “Kenya recognizes and appreciates the collaboration of Moderna in building our local manufacturing capacity.”

Moderna’s website states the company “is working to create mRNA medicines for a wide range of diseases and conditions. These include potential new mRNA medicines for treating infectious diseases, cancer, rare diseases and cardiovascular disease.”

“The novel mRNA process uses the genetic code for the spike protein of the coronavirus and is thought to trigger a better immune response than traditional vaccines,” according to Africanews. “Scientists hope the technology, which is easier to scale up than traditional vaccine methods, might ultimately be used to make vaccines against other diseases, including malaria.”

Africanews is owned by Euronews. The France-based Euronews is itself owned partly by numerous European and North African state-run broadcasters.

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