Researchers from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) entity, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and some South African universities will visit the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) to assess whether the DST should join the institution.

This according to DST Director-General Dr Phil Mjwara, who addressed a workshop between the Department and the European institution on Wednesday in Cape Town.

Dr Mjwarasaid that South Africa had signed a declaration of intent (DoI) on strategic scientific cooperation with EMBL to facilitate cooperation, and promote and support strategic long-term scientific collaboration in the field of life sciences. The DoI will assist in establishing business partnerships and increasing the prospects for commercialising South African research and translating intellectual property into business with international partners. Until the period of the DoI expires, it will serve as a tool to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and enhance the scientific capabilities of the respective research communities, and will help to enable possible associate membership.

The EMBL is at the forefront of innovation in life science research, technology development and transfer, and provides outstanding training and services to the scientific community in its member states.

EMBL has a venture capital arm, EMBL Ventures, which invests in life science companies, from start-ups to later stage companies.  EMBL invests throughout Europe with the aim of building companies that create significant commercial opportunities based on new therapeutic treatment modalities and pharmaceuticals. The ventures strive to build long-lasting personal relationship with investors such as institutions and individuals.

South Africa will explore how the EMBL can assist the country to translate its research into products and services in an effort to address the disease burden experienced by the country.

The DST will send two groups, the first of which will be a technical group that will visit EMBL Enterprise Management (EMBLEM) to engage and discuss collaboration, technical support, partnership, advice on technology transfer, and support relating to commercialisation opportunities based on life sciences research in South Africa.

The second group will be a research group.  This group will visit the EMBL research outstations to explore joint and collaborative research in systems biology, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, molecular medicine and marine biology among other fields. The DST's role will be to oversee and manage the visit of two groups to the EMBL. The research groups will include the researchers from the CSIR, the MRC, and some national university representatives with a strong life sciences research.