The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, welcomed the agreement signed between South Africa and Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceuticals company, saying that it would to boost the volume and quality of clinical trials and build research capability on the continent.

A memorandum of understanding signed this morning (25 May) in Cape Town, between Novartis, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be implemented within the framework of the Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP). 

SHIP is a DST project implemented by the MRC to coordinate the development of new or adapt existing drugs, vaccines and other biologicals, diagnostics and medical devices for priority diseases or medical conditions in South Africa.

This agreement will allow for joint research programmes in selected communicable and non-communicable diseases, improve South African patients' access to innovative medicines, and build the country and continent's research and development capabilities.

Speaking at the signing, Minister Pandor said that new, efficacious and cost-effective solutions were required to address pressing health issues.

"South Africa has a significant burden of disease, which has a major impact on mortality and health sector spending. The quadruple burden of HIV, TB, non-communicable diseases, and injuries must be addressed to improve the health of our society," said the Minister.

The Minister highlighted that international cooperation such the partnership with Novartis has been a consistently important aspect of national research and innovation programmes and strategies.

Dr Thomas Kowallik, Novartis South Africa CEO and Country President, noted that the company had made significant investments in research and development (R&D) in the South African healthcare and pharmaceutical space in recent years and was firmly committed to continue doing so.

"As a global leader in R&D, employing 20 000 scientists worldwide and investing US$9m in R&D every year, this ongoing collaboration has the potential to lead to breakthrough innovations stemming from South Africa.  Innovation will attract further investment with positive outcomes for the economy. We live in an era of innovation with a lot of opportunities, jobs and breakthroughs based on science and R&D. We as Novartis view South Africa as an ideal location for conducting such activities," said Kowallik.

South African MRC Vice President, Prof. Jeffrey Mphahlele, also welcomed the partnership.

"We are delighted to be in this partnership. Collaboration is the only way to boost R&D in the country and to assist in building our research capacity.

"Public-private partnerships like this are catalysts that enhance our scientific research and innovation capabilities. These partnerships are visionary and aim to change lives in the present and future," said Prof. Mphahlele.

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.

Enquiries: Lunga Ngqengelele at 082 566 0446 or David Mandaha at 072 126 8910