BioNTech Unveils Mobile COVID-19 Vaccine Factories

Production Goes on the Move

German biotech company BioNTech (BNTX) has introduced mobile coronavirus vaccine production units that will be deployed to parts of Africa and other underserved regions of the world. The company will cover the entire project’s cost in terms of development, manufacturing, and shipment costs. Some have previously criticized BioNTech and other vaccine makers for failing to hand over COVID-19 vaccine patents to generic drugmakers, which would make the shots more accessible for developing nations.

The overall cost of producing the factories and the vaccines themselves isn’t yet clear. BioNTech notes vaccine partner Pfizer (PFE) is not involved.

Mobile Factories in Action

The new mobile production units were introduced yesterday at one of BioNTech’s factories in Marburg, Germany. Called BioNTainers, they can be transported by sea, rail, air, or over roadways. When they arrive at their destination, regulators will begin follow-up testing and certification.

For now the plan is to ship the mobile units in the second half of 2022 to parts of Africa. During the unveiling announcement, leaders from Senegal, Rwanda, and Ghana were all in attendance. Local partners on the ground will be tasked with completing the process’s final step — known as fill and finish — in which the vaccines are packed for use.

Long-Term Impact for Medicine

There are indications these types of mobile production units could help improve vaccination rates for a variety of diseases, outside of COVID-19. These include tuberculosis, malaria, and even cancer treatments that are in trials. BioNTech says each mobile unit can produce upwards of 50 million vaccine doses per year.

Executives note this effort could turn out to be especially important in the world’s lower-income areas. The mass production of vaccines and other medicines typically relies on sophisticated manufacturing facilities. Mobile factories could allow non-industrialized areas to more easily gain access to these advanced medical treatments.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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