Government and leading medical and pharmaceutical associations to collaborate on research and development

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The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA) have entered into a collaborative agreement, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Cape Town on 26 January.

The MoU is aimed at advancing South Africa's objectives to research, develop and ultimately commercialise innovative health solutions. 

IPASA is a voluntary association comprising innovative multinational pharmaceutical companies including Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi, GSK and AstraZeneca and others.  It is committed to advancing research and development (R&D) activities in South Africa and on the continent, which is aligned to both the DSI and SAMRC’s mandates.

The worsening effects of climate change are increasingly making countries and communities vulnerable to a range of diseases.  The responses to the Covid-19 pandemic have demonstrated the need for local and global partnerships but, more importantly, highlighted the significance of continued investment in R&D in South Africa.

South Africa's response to Covid-19 showed that our past investments in research and research infrastructure enabled scientists in the country to detect new Covid-19 variants and produce testing kits and non-invasive ventilators locally, among other important breakthroughs during this time.

The latest R&D survey conducted by the Human Science Research Council's Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, on behalf of the DSI, show that medical and health sciences accounted for the majority of R&D expenditure (R7,404 billion or 22,1%).

The MoU is expected boost these numbers, said the Department's Chief Director: Bio-innovation, Ben Durham.

"Since 2016, innovative multinational pharmaceutical companies invested close to R3 billion in R&D activities in the country.  They have also sponsored and facilitated at least 382 clinical trials that have positively impacted the more than 100 000 patients who participated in them," said Durham.

The MoU between the SAMRC, IPASA and the DSI provides for the parties to co-operate and collaborate, namely through establishing research programmes focusing on communicable and non-communicable diseases (from discovery through preclinical and clinical development); building on the resource and infrastructure investment of both the South African government and members of IPASA; creating partnerships that focus on capacity building and skills development across the pharmaceutical value chain to strengthen the R&D ecosystem in South Africa; building on and leveraging existing South African strengths related to precision medicine to improve access to precision medicines for South Africa's diverse population; and creating partnerships to boost pharmaceutical manufacturing in the country.

The SAMRC President and CEO, Professor Glenda Gray said they were excited to partner with IPASA and the DSI to strengthen South Africa’s research and innovation capacity.

“By working together, we want to deliver innovative and affordable solutions for infectious and non-communicable diseases for our country. This collaboration will build on the already existing successful partnership between the SAMRC and the DSI, and will facilitate the development and implementation of a comprehensive program of interventions across the pharmaceutical development pipeline,” said Gray.

“As the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa, we are thrilled to be part of this partnership, as R&D is one of the key pillars of our association,” says Dr. Mothobi Godfrey Keele, IPASA Head of Government Affairs and Policy. “Together with our member companies, we look forward to the innovations that will be borne from our collaboration with the SAMRC and the DSI, to ultimately benefit patients and create greater access to innovative medicines for all South Africans.”     


For enquiries, please contact:

Thabang Setlhare (DSI) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 072 152 6690 Tendani Tsedu (SAMRC) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or 082 945 1980, or Tennille Taylor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 083-378-9314(IPASA)



The Innovative Pharmaceutical association South Africa (IPASA) was established in April 2013. IPASA was formed from a desire for a credible, respected association to engage with stakeholders in both the private and public sectors. IPASA comprises of numerous research-based pharmaceutical companies and aims to be an association that focuses on building an environment for sustainable access to innovative research-based healthcare.


The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) was established in 1969 with a mandate to improve the health of the country’s population, through research, development and technology transfer, so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. The scope of the organisation’s research projects includes tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular and non-communicable diseases, gender and health, and alcohol and other drug abuse. With a strategic objective to help strengthen the health systems of the country – in line with that of the Department of Health, the SAMRC constantly identifies the main causes of death in South Africa.

 Issued by the DSI, SAMRC and IPASA.


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