Cytiva and SaudiVax
- SaudiVax intends to increase access to vaccines to 20 times more people in the Middle East and Africa than today
- First bioprocessing facility for halal vaccines in-region, for region
- Remote Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) helped avoid COVID-19 related delays
November 17, 2020
Cytiva, a global life sciences leader, is installing its first FlexFactory in the Middle East and North African region as part of SaudiVax’s planned Saudi Vaccine and Bioprocessing Center (SVBC), a Saudi government-funded project led by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and the National Industrial Development Center. The SVBC will use Cytiva’s FlexFactory to manufacture halal vaccines and biologics in-region, for-region, as part of an effort to heighten protection against the spread of communicable diseases among Saudi residents and visitors to the region.
Professor Mazen M. Hassanain, the Managing Director of SaudiVax, says: “This is the beginning of a great effort to actually develop and manufacture vaccines and biologics in Saudi Arabia and deliver them to satisfy the needs of the Kingdom, the Middle East and Africa. The lack of vaccines, for regional diseases, and some of the essential biologics make our purpose clear. Working with Cytiva, we’ve been able to complete construction and qualification of the bioreactors– even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The annual Hajj and the year-round Umrah attract millions of pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia every year. In 2019, more than 21.5 million religious pilgrims visited the region, and over 650,000 electronic Umrah permits have already been issued this year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such large-scale gatherings are a known risk for the spread of communicable diseases, with millions of people spending extended time in close proximity during pilgrimage events or at crowded accommodations. Past events have resulted in flu and meningococcal outbreaks.
Approximately half of Hajj pilgrims are older than 56 with pre-existing health conditions. Additionally, many travel from countries that don’t have advanced health systems, disease surveillance or prevention education, so an outbreak of any communicable disease could easily be an epidemic before it is detected. Both the Hajj and Umrah have been linked to local and international outbreaks of meningococcal disease.
An important religious and cultural consideration is making halal-certified vaccines, those without any animal products. SaudiVax will use Cytiva’s flexible solution to manufacture halal-certified as well as a therapy based on mAbs for the respiratory pathogens. Between April 2012 and 1 September 2020, 2,577 cases of MERS-CoV, including 935 deaths, have been reported by health authorities worldwide.
Progress in the COVID-19 environment
COVID pandemic-induced travel restrictions and social distancing regulations meant that the SaudiVax team could not attend the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) at Cytiva’s site in Sweden prior to delivery. Instead, a remote solution was rapidly developed, using cameras, digital platforms and an interactive online environment. This first-of-its-kind test from Cytiva’s Umea site experience allowed Cytiva to reach a wider SaudiVax team, with more in-depth knowledge of available Cytiva instruments, leading to shorter start-up and time-to-market timelines.
Olivier Loeillot, Senior Vice President, Cytiva, says: “We understood that accelerating the approval of this FlexFactory was key to the strategy of SaudiVax and other clients, which we quickly acted upon by setting up a remote ‘near-live’ FAT process. This way, we were able to meet quality requirements and the timeline for SaudiVax, while ensuring the health and safety of our and the SaudiVax’s team during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The SVBC is located in the King Abdullah University of Technology Research and Technology Park (KAUST-KRTP) in Thuwal, north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Preparations are ongoing to begin production in 2022.
SaudiVax is a leading biotechnology company in the Kingdom and a joint venture of “UYC Inc.” of Saudi Arabia and “PnuVax Inc.” of the USA. The vision of SaudiVax is to localize biotechnology in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), & the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). SaudiVax is particularly keen to ensure national health security by supporting the region’s pandemic preparedness plans against infectious diseases. In alignment with the SaudiVision 2030, SaudiVax is promoting women employment in the biotechnology sector, and supporting the creation of high-income jobs for highly educated and talented Saudi graduates. SaudiVax is striving to be the 1st local manufacturer for “high demand” biotechnology products, creating a label in Saudi Arabia, and for exporting to the OIC members, to build needed ecosystems covering research, development, education, and training to secure technology and knowledge transfer. SaudiVax is led by Dr. Donald Gerson, Prof. Mazen Hassanain, Eng. Jonas Gerson with a group of elite Saudi scientists’ collaborators.
Cytiva is a global life sciences leader with more than 7,000 associates across 40 countries dedicated to advancing and accelerating therapeutics. As a trusted partner to customers that range in scale and scope, Cytiva brings speed, efficiency and capacity to research and manufacturing workflows, enabling the development, manufacture and delivery of transformative medicines to patients.
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 Science Magazine Editorial – 10 August 2018
 Science Magazine Editorial – 10 August 2018
 International Journal of Infection Diseases – “Meningococcal disease during the Hajj and Umrah mass gatherings.” -2015