The CSIR has received an R88-million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that it says will help in “building capacity and responding to future pandemics”.
The money – US$4.46-million – will be used in skills development and health innovation, the CSIR said. The Gates Foundation was founded by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his then-wife, Melinda Gates, in 2000 with the aim of improving healthcare and reducing poverty around the world.
“The investment, which seeks to strengthen Africa’s bio-manufacturing capability through a workforce training and skills development programme, is a significant milestone that will reduce the continent’s dependence on imported critical health products,” the state-owned science and technology research agency said in a statement on Thursday.
“Skills development and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure in the field of bio-manufacturing require urgent action to strengthen our capability to manufacture health products that are accessible and cost-effective locally,” said Dr Rachel Chikwamba, CSIR group executive: advanced chemistry and life sciences.
“This will reduce the continent’s reliance on imported therapeutics and promote the development of tailored health products for the African population. Therefore, this workforce development programme will have a significant catalytic role in stimulating local biomanufacturing by providing hands-on training and competency building.”
This grant will support local training and workforce development for the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients, biopharmaceuticals and vaccines on the African continent, the CSIR said.
“The grant from the Gates Foundation will allow for the expansion of the existing microbial production facility and the establishment of bench-scale production using mammalian cell-culture systems. This is a key focus area for us because, quite often, lead biopharmaceuticals that are discovered in Africa remain in the research and development phase and never reach commercial reality,” said Dr Santosh Ramchuran, CSIR research group leader: bioprocess technologies.
“This work, which will support product development, is in keeping with the CSIR’s role in research translation and innovation – we provide knowledge, skills development and infrastructure to drive sustainability in the biotech sector,” Ramchuran said.
The initiative aims for black female candidates and applicants from other African countries to make up a majority of those who will benefit from the programme. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media