August 7th, 2020—Brazil’s leading corporations and philanthropies have teamed up to fund a COVID-19 vaccine production facility, which will be donated to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).
The stunning announcement comes as Brazil finds itself with the second-highest number of COVID cases in the world after the US. The vaccine factory, which will be located in Rio de Janeiro, is forecast to begin production in the first few months of 2021.
Led by Brazilians from end-to-end, the project will bring the world’s sixth most populous nation unprecedented autonomy to supply vaccines for COVID-19 and will also be the first factory capable of producing this type of vaccine in South America.
The accelerated project was made possible by an unprecedented alliance of Brazil’s major corporations, non-profits, and foundations—the Lemann Foundation, Votorantim Institute, Brava Foundation the Behring Family Foundation, Ambev, Americanas, Itaú Unibanco (All for Health) and Stone.
The vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford, together with the British pharmaceutical laboratory, AstraZeneca, and is currently in Phase III testing in Brazil and other countries including the US, UK, and South Africa. The Brazil trials were facilitated and financed by the Lemann Foundation and other partners. The expectation is that the vaccine will be approved for large-scale production this year.
The facility will ensure Brazil’s scientific and medical communities have access to state-of-the-art infrastructure that can accelerate the development of vaccines for current as well as future diseases.
“We hope to leave an enduring public legacy that not only benefits millions of Brazilians now but that better positions Brazil to face similar challenges when they arise in the future," said Jorge Paulo Lemann, Chairman of the Board of the Lemann Foundation.
Denis Mizne, executive director of the Lemann Foundation, who helped lead the foundation’s effort to bring the clinical trials for the Oxford vaccine to Brazil, said that decisive first step “was critical in paving the way for the multi-sector collaboration that followed.”
Mizne added, “this project reaffirms the Lemann Foundation’s commitment to the people of Brazil.”
The coalition will be responsible for funding 100 percent of the costs, covering the cutting-edge laboratory and industrial equipment necessary for operation. Ambev will lead the management and execution of the project, under the technical expertise of Bio-Manguinhos, the Fiocruz Immunobiological Technology Institute.
The project involves two phases in order to get the most doses of the vaccine ready for distribution as quickly as possible. In the first phase, Brazil will import the vaccine’s Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (IFA) from AstraZeneca in order to process and fill the first 100 million doses.
For Phase 2, once the facility is up and running at full capacity, it will manufacture the full vaccine locally from start to finish. The vaccine will only be distributed to the general population once it has passed through all the necessary legal and safety requirements.
Barbosa, Mussnich e Aragão Advogados will act as the project's legal advisor, pro bono. A composite committee by all companies and foundations will be formed to monitor the progress of the work.
Some of the coalition members will also fund a similar facility at the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, which is currently researching an alternate vaccine.