A delegation from a Japanese Pharmaceutical company Shionogi & Co. Ltd. visited Ghana on 16th February 2023 to explore the possibility of producing vaccines in Ghana. Shionogi is engaged in research, development, manufacturing, and marketing activities, with a primary focus on prescription drugs, OTC drugs and diagnostics.

The delegation engaged stakeholders including officials of the Ministry of Health, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG), members of the academic community, and Noguchi Memorial Research, among others.

Shionogi & Co., Ltd. with its head office in Osaka Japan, are producers of a COVID-19 Recombinant Protein-based Vaccine, code-named S-268019. According to the Japanese delegation, the vaccine is produced using “a unique and reliable” recombinant protein vaccine technology, “BEVS”, established by UMN Pharma Inc., a subsidiary of Shionogi. BEVS (Baculovirus Expression Vector System) is the protein expression technology using insect cells etc. established by UMN pharma using rhabdovirus-free insect cell cultivation technology. The recombinant protein vaccine contains the purified target antigen protein, produced using genetic information from the virus, and produced by the BEVS technology, which is used in already approved and marketed vaccines, such as an influenza prophylactic vaccine.

The vaccine has demonstrated positive results in five clinical trials conducted in Japan. In the main clinical trial, which tested priming dose administration, the Phase 3 neutralizing antibody titer comparison trial met the criteria for the primary endpoint. The primary endpoint in this study was a superiority comparison of the geometric mean antibody titer (GMT) of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titer at 28 days following the second vaccination of S-268019 compared to the group receiving ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

Present at the engagement, the president of the PSGH, Pharm. Samuel Kow Donkoh called on the Company to consider partnership agreements with local manufacturers, including technology transfer agreements, to produce the vaccines in Ghana. He said the company should take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to produce the vaccines here in Ghana and export them to other African countries.

The Vice Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prof. Kwame Ohene Buabeng, and the Dean of the UG School of Pharmacy, Prof. Julius Isaac Asiedu-Gyekye, who were both presents called for a collaboration with local Universities to build local human resource capacity to ensure the availability of experienced and skilled labour in vaccine production.

This development comes on the back of the passing of the National Vaccine Institute Bill, 2022, by Parliament. The Bill proposes to establish the National Vaccine Institute to coordinate and supervise vaccine and serum research, development, and manufacturing, as well as other related matters.

It may be recalled that in his 26th Covid-19 update, President Akufo-Addo stated that the government has committed $25 million to the establishment of a National Vaccine Institute to spearhead the manufacture of vaccines to meet national and regional needs.