CSIR bags R80m funding from Gates Foundation
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has received $4.46 million (around R80 million) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to drive skills and health innovation.
In a statement, the CSIR says the investment seeks to strengthen Africa’s biomanufacturing capability through a workforce training and skills development programme.
It will also reduce the continent’s dependence on imported critical health products, says SA’s scientific and technology research organisation.
“Skills development and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure in the field of biomanufacturing require urgent action to strengthen our capability to manufacture health products that are accessible and cost-effective locally,” says 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.”
The CSIR further states the investment will contribute to the modernisation of infrastructure and equipment that are key to building a robust local biomanufacturing capability.
In terms of the development programme, its aim is for black female candidates and applicants from other African countries to make up a majority of those who will benefit from it.
“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,” notes Dr Santosh Ramchuran, CSIR research group leader: Bioprocess Technologies.
“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.
“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.”