South Africa-born billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Botswana to establish a COVID-19 and cancer vaccine center in the country, local media sources confirmed.
The development is a major boost to the continent as African policymakers seek to double-down on their efforts to vaccinate the population to contain the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a France 24, only six African countries have vaccinated up to 40 percent of their population. At the current rate, it could take until May 2022 to have 40-percent vaccination coverage on the continent. Experts warned that the low vaccination rates provide a breeding ground for new virus variants to emerge, such as the rapidly spreading Omicron strain.
Highly touted as an investor-friendly country for its ease of doing business, Botswana is on a mission to attract investors in its technology sector in a bid to achieve its Fourth Industrial Revolution Digital Transformation Strategy targets.
A local source reported that the billionaire agreed to: “initiate the transfer of biological manufacturing technology for COVID-19 and cancer vaccines and next-generation cell-based immunotherapies.”
Commenting on the development, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi said: “Dr. Soon-Shiong and NantWorks have identified Botswana as an investor-friendly country in which they would wish to engage and operate from, as a gateway to reaching regional and continental markets. They also recognize the government’s sustained efforts to building strong relationships between the public sector, industry, civil society and the research community in order to shift government transformation and create a conducive environment to ease doing business.”
Soon-Shion is a South African-American billionaire, bio-scientist and transplant specialist, who is best known for discovering the cancer drug, Abraxane. He is the founder of NantWorks. He also has equity positions in other firms, such as Tribune Publishing, CytRx and the Los Angeles Lakers.
NantWorks is a U.S.-based company investing in the healthcare, public health, biotech and AI sectors.
Soon-Shion became a billionaire after selling two drug companies, APP Pharmaceuticals, and Abraxis BioScience, to Fresenius Medical Care and Celgene for $4.6 billion and $2.8 billion, respectively. According to Bloomberg, he is the 248th richest man in the world, with a net worth of $9.65 billion.
Billionaires.Africa earlier reported that the billionaire pledged $213 million toward COVID-19 vaccine production. The pledge follows a partnership that he sealed with the Cape Town-based biopharmaceutical company, Biovac, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.