UCT to host genetic and biotechnology centre

19 February 2007

Dissection: Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena (left) on an earlier visit to the IIDMM's laboratories. The IIDMM will host the third component of the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, a coup for UCT and South Africa.

South Africa, and specifically UCT's Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM), has won the bid to host the third component of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). The news was announced on 1 December last year.

Nigeria and Tanzania also submitted bids.

There are existing components in laboratories at Trieste, Italy, and New Delhi, India. The ICGEB's research is expected to help the world's scientists determine the mechanisms related to infections and the resurgence of diseases at a molecular level. It is hoped the research will result in new drugs and vaccines in the fight against TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena said the Department of Science and Technology (DST) had allocated R40 million over four years to support its establishment. The centre will give South Africa access to sophisticated technologies aimed at solutions to both medical and agricultural challenges on the continent. Importantly, it will also enhance efforts towards the development of an African hub of technology.

IIDMM director Professor Greg Hussey said: "The Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine is extremely proud to be hosting the African component of the ICGEB here at UCT. We view this initiative as a positive step by the world community to contribute actively towards the advancement of science on the African continent. The research mandates of the IIDMM and the ICGEB are remarkably similar in context and focus and we look forward to forging closer links with our colleagues in Africa and on the Indian sub-continent."

Mangena said the development was significant on several fronts: "It will enable us to address the disease burden of the developing world, the agricultural challenges of poor yields, producing in difficult climatic conditions, enhancing our post-harvest capacities, and the use of biotechnology to develop our manufacturing and industrial sectors."

The component, he added, would boost the country's profile as the preferred destination for global science and technology initiatives and would drive Africa's development in innovation and technology.

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