Billionaire to back Covid-19 and cancer vaccines in South Africa

South African-born biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong will announce a plan to transfer technology for the manufacture of Covid-19 and cancer vaccines to the country.

Soon-Shiong, who is based in California, will make the announcement at 17h00 local time together with President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African presidency said in a statement late Wednesday.

Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks has signed a collaboration agreement with the South African government’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Medical Research Council and the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation. Three South African universities are also party to the agreement.

Born in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) to China-born parents, Soon-Shiong studied in Johannesburg and the University of British Columbia before settling in Los Angeles.

The interim decades have seen Soon-Shiong rack up a fortune following his invention of the cancer drug Abraxane, and he has sold two firms for a combined $7.4 billion.

His net worth is now $10.9 billion (R160 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and his assets include the Los Angeles Times newspaper and a share of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, which he bought from former star player Magic Johnson.

There are fewer than 10 vaccine manufacturers in Africa, based across Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and South Africa, and most of those carry out packaging and labelling rather than manufacturing.

With further reporting by Bloomberg.

Read: Top South African CEO resigns for move to Australia

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Billionaire to back Covid-19 and cancer vaccines in South Africa