South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a low-cost method of manufacturing the antiretrovirals used to treat HIV/Aids, paving the way for more extensive HIV treatment across Africa.The CSIR’s new technique will reduce the production costs of thymidine, a valuable ingredient in the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs AZT and stavudine. The two generic drugs are used in combination therapy treatment of HIV/Aids.By using two drugs of different classes, combination therapy minimises both HIV virus resistance to ARVs and the development of serious side-effects. Because of this, it is the preferred method of ARV administration.Until now, Indian drug manufacturers supported by state subsidies have offered the most competitively priced active pharmaceutical ingredients, and so dominated the global market.The CSIR’s breakthrough will now allow for the production of thymidine at a fraction lower than the Indian market.According to Dr Moira Bode, who led the CSIR project probing the low-cost production of ARVs, this research could stimulate establishment of an industry for local production of active pharmaceutical ingredients.“This will empower African governments to supply more people with the life-saving drugs,” Bode said.The CSIR-developed technology relies on a biocatalytic step to produce thymidine. The research included total development of the biocatalysis reaction to produce 5-methyluridine as well as the chemistry to convert 5-methyluridine to thymidine.“This involved, among other things, initial screening work to identify useful enzymes, the fermentations to produce enzymes and the process development for scale-up of the biocatalytic reaction, as well as the chemistry,” said Bode.“The entire process was scaled at the CSIR to produce thymidine at kilogram scale.”The CSIR has filed a patent application on the technology and a new market player in antiretroviral manufacturing, Arvir Technologies, has been granted the commercial rights.The company will explore various options, including granting licences to existing ARV active pharmaceutical ingredient producers, and establishing a new ARV pharmaceutical ingredients facility for South Africa.“We need to ensure that South Africa has an economically sustainable and well-secured supply of high quality ARVs,” ,” said Dr David Walwyn, CEO of Arvir. “Negotiations are presently underway with government.”Dr Gatsha Mazithulela, executive director of the CSIR Biosciences research unit, said South Africa’s high HIV prevalence rate made low-cost ARVs essential.“In South Africa, with the number of people requiring ARV drugs estimated at approaching 1 million [where the CD4 count of the individual is less than 200], the local manufacturing of these drugs is an imperative,” he said.“Ironically, now that the science has been done, the challenge is to find commercial partners willing to invest in manufacturing. We look forward to interesting conversations with our government and other stakeholders in making local production of ARVs a reality.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at email@example.comUseful linksCouncil for Scientific and Industrial ResearchArvir Technologies
3 August 2011Technology company Altech UEC has opened a high-tech facility outside Durban with an annual manufacturing capacity of three-million digital set-top boxes (STBs), which are needed as South Africa and sub-Saharan African countries convert their television signals from analogue to digital transmission.With demand for STBs in South Africa expected to reach more than nine-million, and a further 30-million required for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, the company has consolidated six buildings on two sites into a single, state-of-the-art, 13 500 square metre factory at Mount Edgecombe.“Our investment in this facility is in direct support of government policy,” Altech CEO Craig Venter said at the launch on Wednesday. “Not only are we employing people in the factory, but services such as packaging, delivery and installation will create tens of thousands of small business opportunities in the years to come.“In the process, people will acquire new skills, equipping them for the next wave of ICT innovation and development.”Economic spin-offs destined to be hugeVenter said the economic spin-offs are destined to be huge – from technical support to retailing – while the increased demand for broadcast content, especially regional-based programming, will create more jobs for local content producers and their supply chains.“New jobs will be created all down the delivery chain, while millions will be able to benefit from better education and communication through new electronic means,” said Venter. “Digital migration creates an opportunity to build a globally competitive export sector that is an objective of the [government’s] Industrial Policy Action Plan.”Venter said the new generation STBs would enable millions of people in South Africa and the wider region to access digital television.Resuscitating local research and developmentVenter said ICT innovation, driven by intellectual property, was a “cornerstone of global competitiveness”. There was therefore a need to resuscitate local research and development and, while a South African Silicon Valley might be far-fetched, poverty could only be eradicated by economic growth, which depended on competitiveness.“In a world where everybody has access to the same technological tools, competitiveness depends on how the technology is applied to harness information and create new knowledge,” he said. “People and countries who can meet these demands are the ones who succeed.”SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material
Students of two departments of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Tuesday boycotted classes against the administration’s compulsory attendance order.Students from the School of International Studies and School of Languages did not turn up for classes after the JNU Students Union gave a call for boycotting lectures. “Students boycotted their classes and attendance to give a firm message to teachers who are coercing students to give attendance and the JNU Vice-Chancellor, who is trying to impose an illegal policy measure which was never part of or was discussed in the Academic Council meeting,” the union said in a statement.The union has called for boycott of classes in the other departments on Wednesday, which include School of Social Sciences, Arts and Aesthetics and those of the science department. “Students complied on their own with the strike. Barring one or two, no one attended classes. The boycott was observed throughout,” Yashaswani Sehrawat, an international studies scholar at the varsity, told IANS. The students’ protest is over an administration order which mandated minimum 75 per cent attendance for all students to qualify for exams. Scholars are refusing to comply with the order calling it against the JNU culture and arguing that making them lecture-bound would hamper the otherwise free flow of knowledge.