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Brics bloc launches joint vaccine R&D centre


Virtual initiative “important milestone” for cooperation, says South African minister

The countries that make up the Brics bloc—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—launched a collaborative vaccine R&D centre on 22 March.

The centre will “pool together complementary advantages of Brics countries in vaccine research and development”, India’s health minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, told the virtual launch.

It will carry out basic research, preclinical and clinical vaccine studies, and strengthen Brics countries’ laboratory capacities to develop and standardise assays for testing vaccine candidates, Mandaviya said.

Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s science minister, called the centre an “important milestone” that will offer best practice in international science cooperation and deepen the Brics partnership.

The centre will ensure vaccines are a “global good” that are “accessible and affordable to all who need them,” the minister added.

Nzimande told the launch that the centre had been South Africa’s idea back in 2018. “We are grateful for the subsequent support and efforts of the Brazilian, Russian and India chairs, which ensured progress in taking forward this commitment,” he said. He also thanked China’s chairing role this year for making the launch possible.

Beyond vaccines

The joint centre will be virtual rather than physical. Each of the five member countries has identified its own national centre to link to the virtual one.

The national centres are the Immunobiological Technology Institute (Biomanguinhos) in Brazil, the Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza in Russia, the Indian Council of Medical Research, China’s Sinovac Life Sciences, and the South African Medical Research Council.

Nzimande said South Africa is keen for the centre to eventually broaden its focus from vaccines to include diagnostics and therapeutics.

He said progressing the initiative would be a priority for South Africa’s chairing role of the Brics bloc in 2023.