The multi-million dollar biological drugs and vaccines manufacturing facility in Mattuga, Wakiso, Uganda being developed by Dei Biopharma Ltd, a company under the DEI Group headed by Mr. Matthias Magoola, a professional chemist is expected to produce vaccines and low cost drugs, including cancer and malaria treatment medicines, with incidents of the later on increase and the former being Africa’s biggest killer.
The project, whose total cost is USD one billion, was launched by President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President William Ruto (then Vice President) on July 6, 2021. The two leaders were optimistic that it’s construction is part of the efforts to help make Africa self-sustaining in healthcare, under the theme “making a giant leap”.
President Ruto said: “It is very reassuring that people of this continent and especially East Africans like Mr. Magoola are turning challenges into opportunities. With this facility, Africa will produce medicines to supply not only Africa but the globe. It’s gratifying that Africa can no longer be a source of problems but solutions.”
Ugandan Parliament recently approved up to UGX. 70 billion to support operations to resume. There have been a few questions by some of the MPs, especially those who did not have the opportunity to tour the facility when the committee on budget was given a guided tour of the facility recently, during the government budgeting process.
This was after Cabinet of Uganda discussed the project and also inspected the progress and adopted a resolution for government to get involved and support the project, after promoters raised concerns of sabotage by some government departments that caused one of the main financiers to pull out of the project mid way, leading to a halt in construction progress.
Dei Biopharma Ltd, her financiers in the region and partners from the USA and Europe, had already mobilized and invested in the project upto USD 500 million.
The promoters, however, say that while the UGX. 70 billion appropriated by Parliament is a drop in the ocean, they will welcome it considering the good intentions of Cabinet and Parliament to keep the project on track.
About the project:
Under the facility that stands on 150 acres of land, Dei Biopharma Ltd will make the vital drugs for the continent including all types of vaccines on top of the mRNA vaccines, and other biological solutions listed as essential drugs including the Filgrastim, Erythropoietin, and Trastuzumab, among several others, is the first such source of biosimilars in Africa, according to experts.
On top of the mRNA vaccines, which is the only component being put up by Mordena in Kenya, the Dei Biopharma Ltd Ugandan facility will manufacture;-
1. Inactivated vaccines (used to protect against:- Hepatitis A- Flu (shot only)- Polio (shot only)- Rabies).
2. Live-attenuated vaccines (used to protect against:- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR combined vaccine)- Rotavirus- Smallpox- Chickenpox- Yellow fever).
3. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines (used to protect against:- COVID-19).
4. Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines (used to protect against:- Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) disease- Hepatitis B- HPV (Human papillomavirus)- Whooping cough (part of the DTaP combined vaccine)- Pneumococcal disease- Meningococcal disease- Shingles).
5. Toxoid vaccines (used to protect against DiphtheriaTetanus).
6. Viral vector vaccines (used to protect against:COVID-19).
On top of that, Dei Biopharma has an offtake agreement with the Government of Uganda to manufacture the different types of drugs that the government is currently importing and to hit that target, Dei Biopharma has established the following facilities in the project;
1- The Generics section
2 – The Nutraceuticals section
3- The Oncology/cancer drugs
4- Penicillin section
5- The Cephalosporins section
6- Non Beta lactum section
7- The Injectable facilities
8- The WFI facility
9- The Parentals
10- The Ophthalmolic facility
On top of the above, Dei Biopharma Ltd has also set up the iconic YKTM GLP Biotech Laboratories that includes the following components ;- Cancer research, QA/QC, drug discovery, Gene therapy, cell therapy, mRNA therapeutics, vaccines, biosimilars and Biologics.
The facility will, importantly, have biological facilities to manufacture biological drugs, biosimilars, cytokines, therapeutic protein, peptides and monoclonal antibodies.
The above is what makes this facility so unique and is the reason, it will cost us more than $1 billion.
The Moderna facility in Kenya making only mRNA will cost $500 million, and in comparison, considering that this is just a small component of what Dei Biopharma Ltd is putting up in Uganda, is much cheaper.
The Dei Biopharma mRNA facility has capacity to produce more than one billion doses of mRNA vaccines per year and will have a turnover of USD 10 billion annually in the 10th year.
Jobs. The Dei Biopharma Ltd vaccinies manufacturing facility is expected to employ up-to 40,000 people directly and tens of thousands of others in the value chain, especially in the agricultural sector.
Investment. The company now needs USD 600 million to finish the construction of the facility, offset some obligations and commence mass production, says Mr. Matthias Magoola, the proprietor of the Dei BioPharma Ltd.
Formulations. Mr. Magoola says that Dei BioPharma has secured more than 3,000 formulations and is capable of producing a wide range of potential drugs, vaccines, anti-cancer drugs, therapeutic proteins, peptides and cell therapy, among others. He said the firm will utilise mRNA technology to build resilience in healthcare security in Africa.
Vaccines doses. The facility is also the only African pharmaceutical company now manufacturing the Covid-19 therapeutic medications and gearing to produce one billion doses of mRNA vaccines guided by World Health Organization standards.
The development of the facility has been financed through partner funding from the Equity Group and several other funders including the Uganda Development Bank (UDB), with funds being used for construction works, importation of Hi-Tech Medical Equipment and machines as well as working capital support.
About the project
Targeted revenue. With targeted revenue expected to increase to $10bn per year by the 10th year once this project is fully set up, Uganda will be able to grow lots maize, cassava, and potatoes to supply the facility.
“Our plan is to manufacture pharmaceutical grade starch and advanced starch which is usually 40 times more expensive than PHARMA grade starch from cassava, potatoes and maize. This will create such a huge market for the farmers,” Mr. Magoola says.
The facility will manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients from milk, cotton etc, which will create a huge market for the local farming industry. The facility has been constructed to meet all stringent Global cGMP including US(FDA), EU(EMA), WHO standards.
What they say…
President Yoweri Museveni — who has won international praise for his efforts on malaria and other outbreaks has more than twice inspected inspected works at the factory and said the investments there will make Uganda a modern economy catalyzed by growth and development.
“We are entering a totally new phase in Uganda broadening and deepening our economy and one way is through people with resilience like Magoola,” he said as he commissioned the first phase of the project in October last year.
He added: “The NRM supported by these young people like Magoola is bringing new sectors which never existed in Uganda. These are big economies. If we can have a consensus among all leaders, the political, economic, and cultural leaders, and all Ugandans we can move faster.”
Malaria remains Uganda’s biggest killer, with 100,000 Ugandans, mostly children, dying from it last year.
Former Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga says that some of our institutions have not helped Mr. Magoola, because they expected white faces behind such a huge project. “We must all come out and support Magoola because this is not only a Ugandan innovation but an African initiative. The reason I have put solid support for Dei Biopharma company is because I am a firm believer in Uganda’s capacity to develop its own pharmaceutical industries,” Ms Kadaga said at the commissioning of the project.
Mr. Matthias Magoola: President Museveni has been an inspiration and mentor for this project. We would like to salute H.E President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni whose vision led to the establishment of the Dei Biopharma project at Matugga. Without him this project wouldn’t have been here!
We picked H.E’s message that he always gives to young scientists in the country about innovation. So we innovated new malaria compounds and we found buyers in the USA, who were ready to buy our innovation!
President Museveni strongly refused the idea of selling this innovation and immediately directed one of the ministries to pay the laboratories and scientists we had worked with in the USA and patent the same. H.E’s directive was ignored!!
However, we managed to struggle on our own and pay all the fees.
We followed H.E’s guidance and declined several offers that had been put on table for the purchase of the innovation.
However, none of us at that time could understand why H.E was against our idea of selling. He guided and told us that this innovation will benefit the people of Africa and open many opportunities. We never understood this till much later and rest is history! We never understood that, that simple innovation would enable us get more than 3000 formulations, technology to make vaccines, technology to discover drugs from medicinal plants and herbs using the latest technologies, and so much more, just as the president had guided us.
Just as we discovered malaria compounds, we expect that Uganda is going to be the center of excellence for drug discovery from plants and herbs in the world since 70% of all biodiversity is found in this region.
Big pharma is very interested in this program of ours and they are seeking collaborations. Anti-microbial drugs resistance is pushing the world to act with speed towards discovering new drugs. Otherwise very soon, the world will be in trouble if no new drug molecules/compounds are discovered to tackle the problem of resistance.
We therefore wish to thank the President for his vision, guidance, wise counsel that enabled the birth of Dei Biopharma project, the first one of its kind on the African continent. This is the reason why our GLP Biotech Laboratory is called YKTM. We shall forever remain grateful to you sir.
A team of experts from the World Health Organisation commended Dei Biopharma Ltd for establishing the manufacturing facility, saying it provides a base for Africa to effectively respond to Covid-19 and other pandemics and other viruses using both traditional and modern medicinal therapies.
Prof. Joseph Okeibunor, who headed the team that visited the facility in March 2022 hailed “the massive investment” that will provide immediate employment for Africa and lead research and manufacturing in traditional medicines. “I have never seen anything like this in Africa! We are proud of you! And I am sure this will be driven to fruition knowing the person behind it — the Lion’s heart Minister [Dr. Monica Musenero]. I am overjoyed [because] this is employment for Africa. I want to congratulate you and thank you for the opportunity to have come and see this massive investment” he said.
Experts say the locally produced drugs would be cheaper.
Prof. John B. Kaneene from the Michigan State University and a member of the FDA, who concluded assessment plant says the plant meets world standards, adding that the practice of making drugs within the country will solve the problem of fake drugs in Africa. “This plant meets the world standards, at least the first bits that I have seen … Local production is one of the ways of solving the problem of fake drugs so that the population consumes the right medicine.”
Former Prime Minister, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi also a member of the board on combating substandard medical products said that in several African countries, falsified medicines account for between 30 and 60% of all the medical products. Mr. Mbabazi says that Dei Biopharma Ltd is different from other foreign biotechnology companies such as Moderna that are being hosted by African countries.
MP Patrick Isiagi, Chairman Parliament’s Budget Committee said: “This is a very wonderful idea and the way things are moving, we only pray that nothing interrupts this project. This is a project which is going to attract a lot of jobs and bring in a lot of foreign currency exchanges to our country and balance up our trade with the world but will also reduce our import of drugs and we shall be exporting drugs instead.”