South African-born billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has pledged a sum of $213 million to aid the technological transfer needed to jumpstart the production of COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa.
The billionaire said he is ready to work through his family foundation and company with African countries to help develop second-generation COVID-19 vaccines that will address coronavirus variants, Bloomberg reported.
“What is really needed is second-generation vaccines, and our goal is to come back to South Africa and transfer this kind of technology,” Soon-Shiong said.
Soon-Shiong’s pledge was born out of the need to bring African nations up to speed on their respective vaccination program, as figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that the continent accounts for about 1.5 percent of globally administered shots.
With these figures, it is clear that countries on the African continent are trailing behind more affluent parts of the globe, which are well advanced in their vaccination programs.
The billionaire physician added that the new technologies will not only help with COVID-19, but also with other diseases in Africa, including HIV and cancer.
The move is expected to build on the gains from the recent deal, Soon-Shiong’s company ImmunityBio signed with S.A-based vaccine manufacturer, BioVac.
The deal permits ImmunityBio to take stakes in critical operations to allow BioVac to build a plant that will produce 100 million vaccine doses a year.
Soon-Shion is a South African-American transplant surgeon who invented the cancer drug, Abraxane. The drug turned over huge sales due to its efficacy against pancreatic cancer.
The South-African business mogul became a billionaire selling two drug companies, APP Pharmaceuticals and Abraxis BioScience, for a combined $9.1 billion. The Bloomberg Billionaire Index reports that he is worth $15 billion.
He took his cancer drug maker NantKwest public in 2015 and his biotech startup NantHealth public in 2016.
In addition, Soon-Shion owns a network of health startups and has stakes in the media firm Tribune Publishing and holds stakes in the biotech firm CytRx and the Los Angeles Lakers.
He bought the Los Angeles Times for $500 million in June 2018. He acquired a 4.5-percent stake in the Lakers from retired Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson for $27 million in October 2010.