Universities granted millions to develop Covid-19 vaccine
Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and North West University (NWU) have been granted R3.5m to support locally made candidate vaccines, including one for Covid-19.
A memorandum of agreement between WSU and the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (Chieta) was signed in November to conduct preclinical trials to test the efficacy of candidate Covid-19 vaccines which have been already developed.
The grant aims to develop significant local skills and could lead to local manufacturing, expansion, distribution and supply.
“This collaboration gives us and our scientists an opportunity to work with other scientists who under normal circumstances would not have this opportunity,” said WSU vice-chancellor professor Rushiella Songca.
Added to the memorandum of agreement is the aim to develop a pan-African network of collaborating universities and research institutions which want to play a key role in vaccines and pandemic management on the continent.
The university said the grant had been invested in much-needed research and skills transfer at WSU and NWU, headed by professor Markus Depfenhart, who has been involved with both institutions in the development of vaccines and pandemic management interventions in Africa.
“We are hoping that through our faculty of health sciences and clinics across the Eastern Cape that those who provide avenues for community members are able to get access to medicine they would not normally access,” Songca said.
Chieta CEO Yershen Pillay said vaccine development is a scarce skill on the continent.
“At the same time, locally made vaccines give us the best chance of improving our pandemic management.”
Pillay said a local vaccine may hold considerable commercial and social impact value.
The university believes the initiative will have a huge impact on the production of the scientific papers that will be produced through the grant.
Songca has called on government to join the initiative as one of the role players.
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