HE President William Ruto announces new biomanufacturing training initiative in Kenya, with Unizima as its technical and industrial partner.

30 March 2023 | Thursday | News

HE President William Ruto announces new biomanufacturing training initiative in Kenya, with Unizima, a Univercells company as its technical and industrial partner.

Unizima and Univercells were honored to receive His Excellency President Ruto at their Belgian manufacturing facilities to initiate a collaboration for the establishment of a Biomanufacturing Training Hub in the Republic of Kenya.

Today, Unizima S.A. (“Unizima”), an affiliate of Univercells Group, had the honor of welcoming His Excellency William Ruto, President of the Republic of Kenya, along with a diplomatic Kenyan delegation, to its biomanufacturing campus and production facility in Jumet to discuss the establishment of a Biomanufacturing Training Hub in the Republic of Kenya. During their visit, they were accompanied by senior members of the Belgian government as well as Minister-President Elio Di Rupo and Minister of Development and Urban Policy Caroline Gennez.

Unizima is part of the Univercells Group, a Belgian biotech company dedicated to ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to biologics.

The visit, organized as part of HE President Ruto’s official trip to Europe, was an opportunity for Unizima and its partners in Kenya to advance and formalize their commitment to building a thriving biopharma skills base in Kenya and the wider East Africa region.

As Kenya prepares for significant inwards investment in biotechnology and biomanufacturing over the coming years, the government is building the human capital and workforce development needed to ensure this investment brings real improvement in access to vaccines and biotherapeutics for patients in Kenya and the region.

This project is in line with the Kenya Kwanza agenda, advancing the economic pillar of local manufacturing and the development objective on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). It also supports the Africa CDC’s vision to build manufacturing capacity in Africa to produce at least 1.5 billion vaccine doses per year by 2040, enabling the African vaccine-manufacturing industry to develop, produce, and supply over 60 percent of the total vaccine doses required on the continent by 2040, up from less than 1 percent.

Kenyan healthcare and research leaders are driving this initiative. Building the right training and research ecosystem will ensure that end-to-end research, development and manufacturing of biologics can become a reality in Kenya.

The six founding partners for this initiative are:

• The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI),

• The Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH),

• The Kenya BioVax Institute

• Egerton University

• The Pharmacy and Poison Board

• Unizima

Unizima will provide the leading organizations in Kenya with expertise, advisory support and training and technology transfer.

Unizima’s work in the region and Univercells’ deep connection with the Belgian and European biomanufacturing ecosystem was fundamental to the Kenyan government’s decision to partner with the Group.

The Kenyan government also showed interest in Univercells’s GMP manufacturing facilities and in the group’s know-how and technological capabilities deployed in South-Africa, through the mRNA technology transfer Hub program co-led by the World Health Organization and the Medicines Patent Pool. Kenya has already been selected to participate in the WHO mRNA program, with the Kenya BioVax Institute designated as one of the six ‘spokes’ in Africa.

At the end of the visit, all parties expressed enthusiasm about the long-term potential for Belgium and Kenya collaborations.

His Excellency, President Ruto said: “The Government of Kenya is committed and determined to realise the constitutional right to health in the shortest time possible by delivering a universal health coverage. We are therefore delighted to initiate a collaboration with Unizima and the Univercells Group as we share a common mission and values. This new partnership is an important step towards building local training and workforce capacities in Kenya, which is crucial for health and wellbeing of the fast-growing Kenyan population”.

Elio Di Rupo, Minister President of Wallonia added: “This partnership between Univercells/Unizima and the Kenyan authorities is the perfect example and recognition of Wallonia’s Excellence in the biopharmaceutical sector. This was made possible thanks to the excellence of our research and universities and the implementation of structuring government policies. I am extremely proud that a Walloon company offers access to medical care, and vaccines in particular.”

Caroline Gennez, Minister of Development and Urban Equity commented: “Equitable access to health care and quality medication and vaccinations for everyone, everywhere, are major priorities for Belgium’s development cooperation. The work done by Unizima, and the Univercells Group is a great example of what can be achieved when public and private sector entities collaborate, and medical knowledge and know-how is shared across borders. Through combined efforts, we hope African countries will soon be able to develop and produce their own vaccines and biotherapeutics, leading to a more resilient health system. We are proud that Belgium, together with our African partners and private companies like Univercells, can kickstart the African biotech industry, which will bring us closer to having accessible health care for all. “

Hala Audi, CEO of Unizima concluded: “This new partnership with Kenya, after ground-breaking collaborations in Senegal and South Africa, continues our approach to work hand in hand with partners in Africa who are investing in their own new biopharma capability. I am particularly excited by the combination of great science, experienced teaching institutions and sharp focus on getting to commercial GMP manufacturing in Kenya. As Univercells, we couldn’t be prouder to support our partners to match the latest technology in biomanufacturing, or even better leapfrog to the next one as Kenya has shown the world in telecoms and IT.”

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