BIOTECHNOLOGY: Confidence Increases In Vaccine Plant
Recent Western Cape Business News
LITHA Healthcare Group has again upped its stake in The Biovac Institute, the vaccine supplier based in Pinelands.
In terms of an existing agreement with fellow shareholders, Litha was able to push its stake in the Biovac Consortium by another 7.5%. This sees Litha’s stake in The Biovac Consortium shifts to a dominant 85% and its effective share in The Biovac Institute moves to 44.6% (which is now close to the government’s 47.5% stake in the facility).
That means Litha has twice in 2011 initiated moves to grab more of Biovac. CBN reported in March that Litha had taken another 15% of Biovac consortium (taking its stake then to 77.5%).
The latest increase in the Biovac stake comes at a time when Litha is intensifying its focus on rolling out its project plan to manufacture its first vaccines through Biovac in 2013. Litha CEO Selwyn Kahanowitz says the group’s facility in Cape Town is also being geared for potential technology transfers from international vaccine manufacturers to ensure utilisation of the Pinelands manufacturing facility.
He notes that Litha experienced strong sales at Biovac in the six months to end June last year due to the supply of paediatric vaccines for the Extended Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in the public sector.
Significantly Biovac also recently finalised the loan from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to fund further capital investment and R35 million was drawn down on this loan in the interim period.
Kahanowitz has also expressed confidence in the public private partnership (PPPs) that governed Biovac.
Speaking in November at the International Generic Pharmaceutical Conference in Cape Town Kahanowitz stressed the role of PPPs in addressing emerging markets. “As emerging markets remain one of the key opportunities for growth in the healthcare sector, PPP’s will provide the necessary platforms for governments and the private sector to come together and allow greater access to healthcare for the countries within Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Litha has been in partnership with government at Biovac - the only manufacturing facility for human vaccines in Southern Africa - since 2003.
Kahanowitz says the resuscitation of the state owned vaccine facility provided jobs for specialised skills in biotechnology and more importantly a future for local vaccine capability.
Kahanovitz points out that over the last eight years, Biovac had supplied all paediatric vaccines to the South African Government’s healthcare system through its Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).
“Our strategic objectives include the establishment of domestic capacity in vaccine production, for which it is currently on track to achieve towards the end of 2013. But Kahanowitz adds that Biovac needs to ensure that it becomes an economically viable operation as it works to establishing a competitive platform for export opportunities at its Pineland’s plant. This is pivotal to the longevity and success of this highly skilled sector, and will need not only to retain local vaccine production skills, but create a sustainable platform to develop these skills, which will underpin its research and development capacity of new and relevant vaccines for the local market.”
However, Kahanowitz says there are numerous factors which limit access within the pharmaceutical sector. “This is evident in Sub-Saharan Africa, where deterrents include supply issues, which are both institutional and system based, as well as socio-political, economic and the regulatory policy environment.”
He explains that currently barriers to access include the availability, price and affordability, proximity, as well as the quality of the products available to the market.
“We live in a continent with 11% of the world’s population and we share 24 % of the global disease burden in human and financial costs.”
Kahanowitz says statistics show that resources are skewed in favour of the private sector, which serves only 16% of the population in contrast to the public sector which serves 84% of the population.
“The creation of PPP’s therefore becomes an attractive solution to our healthcare conundrum. It is a solution which in essence, harnesses the best of both for the collective good.”
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