Biotechnology in South Africa is a new but budding sector. This is possible as there is support from the government which sees and acknowledges the importance of biotechnology in the alleviation of poverty, in the pharmaceutical industry and in the safety of the environment. There are organisations that have been established in South Africa under the Department of Science and Technology, that promotes Biotechnology at provincial and thus at the national level. These organisations strive to promote biotechnology research and products by funding different companies, research groups and even students, to improve and promote biotechnology. South Africa is rich in biodiversity that is currently being harnessed, especially the traditional medicinal plants, for the treatment of different diseases. Thus a lot of research and companies, especially pharmaceuticals, have been established to do these. The organisations that funds these researches and the different companies set up in regard to these, looking at human health are listed below
1. Lifelab EcoBio Innovation Centre
The centres funds biotechnological industries mainly concerned with human health. The main targeted diseases are HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria which are important in South Africa. Therefore mainly it funds pharmaceutical industries that aim to produce any drugs to combat these three diseases and other diseases arising due to the targeted ones. The funded companies are
a. Tenofovir Gel Trial for HIV Prevention- Looks at the safety and effectiveness of the 1% Tenofovir gel, which is a vaginal microbicide aimed at preventing HIV infection in South African women. It does this in association of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
b. Arvir Technologies (Pty) Ltd- Established in 2005. It was established in order to establish and provide solutions to the HIV situation in South Africa. The focus is to use South African biodiversity to characterise biologically active compounds from the South African herbal extracts and develop these as therapeutics targeted at HIV/AIDS and related diseases.
c. Ferox Pharm (Pty) Ltd- Established to harness the medicinal properties of South African Aloe ferox plant in order to develop and provide accessible and affordable medicines for the treatment of Aids related diarrhoea.
d. iThemba Pharmaceuticals- A medicinal chemistry drug discovery company established in 2007. It focuses on the discovery and development of drugs to treat infectious disease such as TB and HIV/AIDS and their associated infectious diseases, in the whole of Africa.
e. Elevation Biotech (Pty) Ltd- A consortium consisting of Lifelab, National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) and the Wits Health Consortium (WHC) of the University of the Witwatersrand. Their project is aiming at providing proof of concept (POC) and pre-clinical development of peptides that have been designed to inhibit the entry of HIV. Established in 2005.
f. African Clinical Research Organization (Pty) Ltd- Focuses on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and other infectious diseases that are of main concern in Africa by providing services in the management of phase I-IV clinical trials.
2. Cape Biotech
Aims to promote and develop biotechnology industry in the Western Cape province of South Africa by sponsoring students studying or researching in biotechnology and investing in biotechnology projects in the region. In the Health care sector, it is mainly targets drug delivery and combination and conjugate vaccines. The companies it works with in the human health sector are
a.CPGR- Provides analytical services that include selective screening of drugs and drug target identification.
b. Biovac Institute- Develops and improves vaccines, then manufacture and deliver the relevant vaccines to the market.
c. Shimoda Biotech- A leader in the South African pharmaceutical industry, It discovers pharmaceuticals and offers a platform to deliver drugs efficiently to targeted selected sites in the human body.
d. Natural Caretonoids South Africa (NCSA) - The company was established in 2004 and its main objective is to produce an internationally superior b-carotene using technology. b-Carotene is an antioxidant and a Vitamin A precursor that is used in the nutraceutical, cosmetics and the food and beverages industries.
e. Synexa Life Sciences- A service providing Bio analytical company. Services include screening of biological activities of plant extracts for the complementary medicine and pharmaceutical development companies.
f. AD Therapeutics- A joint venture between Angiodesign (Pty) Ltd and the University of Cape Town that is focused on designing and developing improved next-generation drugs for proven disease targets.
g. Biotec Laboratories South Africa Ltd- Specialises in the development and evaluation of clinical diagnostic products with particular interest in significant infectious diseases such as TB, in developing countries.
A biotechnology organisation with a mission to develop entrepreneurs and advanced technologies to address national interests. It funds biotechnology projects/companies that develops and improve therapeutics for treatment of human diseases including cancer and HIV. Biotechnology companies working with this innovative organisation under human health are Ferox Pharm (Pty) Ltd and iThemba Pharmaceuticals that have already been discussed above.
These Organisations and companies shows a booming business in biotechnology that need skilled people thus also offering job opportunities to biotechnology graduates at different levels of study also providing funding to study towards a biotechnology qualification in order for South Africa to produce drugs that can treat the different diseases that are a challenge which include HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
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