Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande is currently in talks to sign a vaccine production contract with ImmunityBio. This US-based firm is owned by a South African-born billionaire who wishes to assist the country with its vaccine production.

According to reports by GoodThingsGuy, the Minister confirmed this on the sidelines of Deputy President David Mabuza’s visit to the Biovac Institute in Pinelands in Cape Town on Thursday, March 18.

“We are expecting that by the end of next month, we will be signing a contract with a company called ImmunityBio, which is owned by a South African born Doctor,” said Mabuza.

The South African-born doctor in question is Patrick Soon Shiong, who was born in Port Elizabeth. Shiong studied and obtained his qualification as a medical doctor at the University of Witwatersrand when he was 23 years old before he moved to the United States during the height of Apartheid.

He was born to Chinese immigrant parents, and became a board-certified surgeon when he graduated from the University of California in 1984.

Later into his career, he became involved in the research and development of his invention called Abraxane, which was considered ground-breaking in its efficacy in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

“He has actually been in the industry of manufacturing products to treat cancer and so on, but … he is now moving into the production of a new vaccine for COVID-19. He is doing the first phase of the test[s]. He is very keen now. We are having discussions with him to invest in South Africa,” Mabuza said.

Currently, ImmunityBio is conducting clinical trials to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in Khayelitsha, a township in the Western Cape.

“We are participating by virtue of having this clinical trial in Khayelitsha,” the Deputy President added.

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Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.