Home South African SA universities granted R3.5 million to develop Covid-19 vaccine

SA universities granted R3.5 million to develop Covid-19 vaccine

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The Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority has invested R3.5 million into Covid-19 vaccine research at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and North West University (NWU).

CHIETA to fund ground-breaking African Covid-19 vaccine research. Picture Supplied.

THE CHEMICAL Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) has invested R3.5 million into Covid-19 vaccine research at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and North West University (NWU).

The investment will also fund vaccine research for other pandemics plaguing the African continent. This research will be headed by Professor Marks Depfenhart, who has worked at both of the universities and who has extensive experience in vaccines and pandemic handling in Africa.

The CEO of CHIETA, Yershen Pillay, explained that vaccines manufactured on the continent would improve pandemic management in Africa and will better suit local conditions.

“Vaccine development is a scarce skill on the African continent. At the same time, locally made vaccines give us the best chance of improving our pandemic management. Only by starting with local vaccine design and formulation – created to suit our local conditions – will SA and the African continent end up manufacturing on the continent and have security of supply in times of pandemics,” said Pillay.

Pillay added that a regional vaccine might have commercial and social impact.

“Just as with Sars, Mers and H1N1 ‘swine flu’ viruses, Covid-19 was not the first virus to disrupt our world in this lifetime. It won’t be the last. Bolstering our local competency in the fields of vaccine development and pandemic management will surely pay off in the long run. It is crucial to invest in these skills now, even though it may seem at times that the pandemic is slowing down.”

CHIETA is set to conduct pre-clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the candidate vaccines which have been developed.

WSU vice-chancellor Professor Rushiella Noludi Songca said the partnership is not just about Covid-19 but other viruses that remain a challenge in Africa, such as malaria. “Covid-19, however, is one of the first viruses that we will be engaging with,” said Songca.

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