Belgian biotech, Bio-Sourcing, and Cape Town based company, Afrigen Biologics, have signed a partnership for a technology transfer pilot programme in South Africa of a biotherapeutic platform named BioMilk.

Developed by Bio-Sourcing, BioMilk is based on the production of biotherapeutics in goat’s milk using genome editing and nuclear transfer technologies and has a particular focus on monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).

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Biotherapeutic medicines, including mAbs, are currently fully imported to South Africa at high cost, resulting in a lack of availability to the largest patient populations. The partnership is intended to strengthen South Africa’s pharmaceutical sovereignty and further the development of biotherapeutics in the country.

According to the companies, BioMilk may help drastically reduce production costs and improve the affordability and accessibility of essential medicines in the fields of oncology and life-threatening autoimmune diseases in South Africa.

The initial aims of the partnership will be to demonstrate the feasibility of a biomanufacturing chain for biotherapeutics in South Africa based on BioMilk technology, and develop the most essential biosimilars from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of essential medicines and make them accessible, initially to South Africans, in terms of volume and price.

“There is a huge unmet need for biotherapeutics, as there is no local production in Africa. These include mAbs, which are highly effective against cancer and can also provide a solution to infectious diseases,” BioSourcing CEO Bertrand Mérot told Pharmaceutical Technology.

“Insulin, in its various forms, also represents a huge need for a population suffering increasingly from diabetes.”

To host its operations, the companies plan to create a new joint entity to enable the end-to-end manufacturing of the latest biologic medicines in South Africa, including drug substance. Several public funding bodies have already expressed interest and the venture is open to additional investors, as per the companies.

Last year, Afrigen partnered with Evaxion to develop an mRNA gonorrhoea vaccine.

In 2023, the company spoke at the third annual Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) organised by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During the conference, Africa CDC director Dr. Jean Kaseya described the excessive dependence on imports for essential healthcare products to Africa as a matter of “grave concern”.

In May, Bio-Sourcing launched AB-BIOBETTER, a three-year project with partners Ciloa and Intract Pharma. Led by Bio-Sourcing, the €3.4m ($3.7m) EU-funded programme aims to develop an oral antibody treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.