/ 27 May 2011

Drug Discovery: Towards establishing a thriving African Pharmaceutical Industry

Drug Discovery: Towards Establishing A Thriving African Pharmaceutical Industry

Professor Kelly Chibale — SARChI Chair in Drug Discovery, Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town

A SARChI Chair in Drug Discovery was established with the remit of concentrating on the discovery and pre-clinical development of novel potential medicines or treatment modalities for the major communicable diseases in South Africa while also training a new generation of South African scientists with key modern pharmaceutical industry skills required to discover modern medicines. Selected achievements since taking up the Chair in 2008.

In recognition of notable research contributions, in 2009 Professor Chibale was elected a Life Fellow of the University of Cape Town (UCT) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa. More recently (2011) Professor Chibale was named a Finalist for the 2010/11 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-BHP Billiton Awards in two categories namely; Through Research and its Outputs, and TW Kambule NRF Senior Black Researcher, both over the last five to ten years.

Emerging Researchers developed and mentored:

  • Dr Margaret Blackie (ex-PhD student and Postdoctoral Fellow, now a lecturer at University of Stellenbosch),
  • Dr Natasha October (ex-PhD student and Postdoctoral Fellow, now a lecturer at University of Pretoria),
  • Dr Duduzile Molefe (ex-Postdoctoral Fellow, now a scientist at the Medical Research Council),
  • Dr Eric Guantai (ex-PhD student, now a lecturer at University of Nairobi, Kenya),
  • Dr Faith Okalebo (ex-PhD student, now a lecturer at University of Nairobi, Kenya),
  • Dr Renate Hans (ex-PhD student, now a lecturer at University of Namibia),
  • Dr Patricia Gitari (ex-Postdoctoral Fellow, now a lecturer at University of Nairobi, Kenya).

Postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows: Successfully supervised to graduation 13 PhD and MSc students while also training seven postdoctoral fellows. Currently Professor Chibale is supervising a total of thirty six (36) researchers including 17 PhD and four MSc students and 11 postdoctoral fellows.

In April 2011, Africa’s first integrated modern Drug Discovery & Development Centre (also known as H3-D) was officially launched at UCT with Professor Chibale as the Founder and Director. The Centre — the first of its kind in Africa — will harness the modern pharmaceutical industry skills and expertise in the drug discovery value chain — integrating medicinal chemistry, biology, pharmacology as well as drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics studies.

It is vital for South African scientists to enhance the drug discovery capability of the country to address its health needs in particular, but also those of the rest of the African continent. The research being undertaken has the potential to lead to seeding a pharmaceutical industry that will create employment while seeking to address the challenges of various diseases.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement