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Novo Nordisk has collaborated with Africa's largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Aspen, to produce human insulin in South Africa.

The announcement was made during an event held on Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa and other Heads of State in New York.

The event was attended by the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Minister for Finance of Denmark, Nicolai Wammen; and South Africa's Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel.

"The collaboration between Novo Nordisk, a global leader in diabetic research and innovation, and Aspen, Africa's largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, will facilitate the production of human insulin," Minister Patel said, SA News reported.

The minister further shared Aspen will produce the insulin under a contract with Novo Nordisk, which is a global leader in diabetic research and innovation.

Patel said that he is optimistic about this collaboration as it will "significantly enhance access to insulin treatment not just in South Africa, but also across the continent," adding that this partnership will supply over one million patients – 16 million doses in 2024 with a further upscaling to four million patients in 2026.

The minister explained that the COVID-19 pandemic era has taught that science and innovation can help humanity with significant tools to fight against diseases and enable people to live productive lives.

He continued that as the population is increasing and lifestyles including diet are changing, several non-communicable diseases need to be fixed.

"These diseases are chronic in nature and place a significant burden on communities and families, as well as on health systems, the fiscus, and economies," he added.

As per Patel, this is an "excellent first step that we hope will pave the way for both licensing and additional manufacturing opportunities, in areas such as sterile cartridge production and the production of high-demand and the new classes of drugs, such as the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is largely inaccessible at present to African patients," as per Patel.

Aspen's sterile infrastructure located in Gqeberha will be used to produce insulin including other infrastructure that was previously used for manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine. Aspen is all set to deploy 250 people to start production in early 2024.

The company also aims to reduce the transport-related carbon footprint by 68 percent. At this moment, Africa imports 99 percent of its vaccines alongside 80 percent of its pharmaceutical tools. However, the new manufacturing collaboration will help the continent to rely on imports in the future.