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Botswana breaks new ground in biotechnology

Botswana’s Digital & Innovation Hub has signed an MoU with Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong’s California-based healthcare conglomerate NantWorks to establish biotechnology resources in the Southern African country.

NantWorks is focused on healthcare, technology and media by harnessing science, digital infrastructure, supercomputing and communication.

NantBotswana will set up a manufacturing plant to conduct research into COVID-19 vaccines, cancer treatment and next generation cell-based immunotherapy, amongst others.

Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Douglas Letsholathebe said, “Today we are here to witness the birth of NantBotswana and a major milestone in our quest to establish and grow biotechnology capacity as well as related technologies in Botswana.”

Dr Letsholathebe said efforts to push science, technology and innovation can only be enhanced by developments such as NantBotswana. “It is our expectation that the benefits derived from this project will be far reaching as we expect the rest of Africa to benefit. It is therefore in our interest, as government, to ensure that all the scientific processes and technologies to be employed here meet international standards.”

Commenting on the development Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the investment is expected to support efforts to accelerate the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly advancing the important linkages between SDG3 on Good Health and Well-being and SDG 17 on Partnership for Global Goals.

He added, “Therefore, the plant is well primed to assist Botswana’s efforts related to establishing advanced cancer treatment technologies (oncology centre of excellence). We look forward to the positive knock-on effects of transfer of skills and technologies, retaining economic value locally and resultantly, job creation for Botswana and the region.”

NantBotswana will transfer the manufacturing technology for COVID-19 and other vaccines as well as the next-generation cell-based immunotherapies to the local health sector, and the intention is to roll out infrastructure to other countries in Africa.

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