Advancing SA's pharmaceutical industry

Members of the PCDDP team Liezl-Marie Scholtz, Dr Nicola Barnard, John Mpefo, Cor Bester, Professor Anne Grobler, Clinton Rambanapasi. (Supplied)

Members of the PCDDP team Liezl-Marie Scholtz, Dr Nicola Barnard, John Mpefo, Cor Bester, Professor Anne Grobler, Clinton Rambanapasi. (Supplied)

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the North-West University (NWU) entered into a joint venture for the establishment of the national Preclinical Drug Development Platform (PCDDP). 

Led by the NWU’s Professor Anne Grobler, the facility focuses on pre-clinical studies and an intellectual property portfolio around Pheroid technology for use in health and agriculture.

Pheroid drug delivery technology is a platform technology that allows for the entrapment of active compounds in an environmentally friendly and safe bio-nano- or micro-transporter system. It underpins the effective delivery of chemical and biological compounds and molecules compatible with humans, animals and plants.

A Pheroid is a vehicle responsible for delivery and can be used to package, without the need for sophisticated procedures and transfer molecules, a number of applications such as medicines, lotions and creams, food supplements and cosmetics.

“In essence, Pheroids help actives cross biological barriers and assists with absorption. So not only does it take something to where it is supposed to go with greater ease, but it results in smaller dosages being required,” says Dr Nicola Barnard from the School of Pharmacy at NWU.

NWU is the patent holder of the technology, which is protected by eight base patents for different applications. This includes a patent application in radiopharmaceuticals that is underway in collaboration with the Nuclear Energy Corperation of South Africa.

International clients are also interested in developing products containing Pheroid technology.

The university believes that this would see the project not only increase exports, but also raise the status of the South African pharmaceutical industry abroad. 

A further outcome of Pheroid-based product development is the hands-on training of postgraduate and post-diploma students in the scarce skills of drug formulation, drug delivery system manufacturing, active compound manufacturing and manipulation and formulation analysis. Pheroid-based commercialised products for the delivery of agricultural remedies have illustrated the commercial potential of Pheroid technology. 

The agricultural product range is manufactured and sold by Nelesco 882 under sublicense from NWU. Nelesco 882 is doing business with several local companies, as well as in New Zealand, China, Vietnam, Germany, Turkey, Brazil and the United States.

A strategic decision was taken to first develop Pheroid-based agricultural products as the barriers to entry are lower and the sector is more accessible when testing the market acceptance of a new technology. Based on this experience, the human and animal market segments can now be targeted for Pheroid-based product commercialisation.

This supplement has been paid for by the Mail & Guardian’s advertisers. Contents and photographs were supplied and approved by the NSTF.