SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian billionaire Jorge Lemann’s foundation and other business interests will fund the building of factory to produce the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC.
The Lemann Foundation said in a statement on Friday that the 100 million reais ($18 million) factory will be donated to Brazil’s premier biomedical research and development lab, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, or Fiocruz.
It said the factory will be ready to produce 30 million doses of the vaccine per month as of the beginning of 2021.
Brazil is approaching 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.
The Brazilian government sees the British vaccine as the most promising of the vaccines that are being developed by researchers worldwide.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is being tested on Brazilian volunteers in a study led by the Federal University of São Paulo that is also funded by the Lemann Foundation.
Other donors to the initiative to ensure Brazil can absorb the technology to produce the potential vaccine include Brazilian brewer Ambev SA, Itaú Unibanco, the Votorantim Institute and the Behring Family Foundation.
Lemann said he hoped the initiative will help Brazil be “better positioned and prepared to face other challenges of this nature that may arise.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree on Thursday setting aside 1.9 billion reais ($356 million) in funds to purchase an initial 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and to invest in its eventually production in Brazil.
The health ministry reported on Friday 50,230 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,079 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours.
Brazil has registered 2,962,442 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 99,572, according to ministry data.
(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Anthony Boadle; editing by Diane Craft and Marguerita Choy)