The African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) is an initiative that involves the CSIR, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).
The aim is to create a collaborative network of excellence in advanced biotechnology, with specific focus on the “-omics”. The individual institutions have their own activities in the biosciences, but by working together they can unlock larger opportunities and be more competitive. As a world-class platform in gene technologies, and with increasing involvement by other organizations, the ACGT has a particular focus on gene and genome analysis and applications thereof.
The ACGT plays in an integrating role with particular emphasis on genetics, genomics and its subsets, including (but not solely limited to) functional genomics (gene function and regulation), structural genomics (structural analysis of gene and protein families), proteomics (evaluation of all expressed proteins), transcriptomics (genes expressed through mRNA), bioinformatics and computational biology.
Through the facilitation of research and development of the highest possible calibre, the ACGT provides short and longer-term benefits to the biotechnology sector of South Africa. This will also provide opportunities for empowerment of African scientists from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, to enable them to play a leading role in the biotechnology “revolution”.
The ACGT aims to establish linkages with relevant organisations and research institutions on the African continent to promote the development and application of the gene technologies in Africa. It also promotes education and in particular postgraduate education in gene technologies.
By identifying and facilitating potential specific projects, raising funds to support research, and the provision of research equipment, the future development of gene technologies is promoted amongst all the collaborating institutions.
The ACGT also facilitates the generation of Intellectual Property and the dissemination of knowledge and other research and development outputs in gene technologies, and establishes effective linkages with other role-players, to ensure that projects are efficiently taken from discovery to implementation by the most appropriate route.
Our approach is to identify and build a limited number of collaborative flagship research programmes that build on the capacity of the partner institutions and can make a strong impact nationally and regionally. We encourage the building and consolidating of equipment, facilities and related human resources across institutions to support the development of capacity in the gene technologies.
The ACGT addresses research priorities that focus on Africa’s needs in health and agriculture, and will derive value from Africa’s genetic diversity.
Linkages and Collaborations
The ACGT links with key role players in the implementation of the National Biotechnology Strategy, and provides an integrating role for the partner institutions to interface with in national initiatives. At the same time, we aim to grow the application of gene technologies within the Southern African region and the rest of Africa in conjunction with NEPAD.
The ACGT includes an additional affiliated institution, the University of Limpopo. Biotechnology-related scientists at a number of other Southern African universities and research institutes are involved in project-specific collaborations.
Projects associated with the ACGT
GMASSURE is an African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Science & Technology Programme funded by the European Union (EU), and the Department of Science & Technology South Africa (DST) that is managed by the ACGT. The overall objective of our project is to assist in increasing agricultural productivity in the SADC region by improving knowledge about, and increasing capacity of agricultural biosafety and biotechnology, and the safe use of genetically modified (GM) agricultural crops. The project runs from January 2014 to December 2016.
SABINA (Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products Network) proactively implements post-graduate chemistry/biochemistry and bioinformatics programmes. Through these programmes SABINA develops and strengthens networks that integrate chemical and biological sciences in key Southern African Development Community (SADC) universities. SABINA is funded by The Carnegie Corporation of New York as a Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE) for the African continent. SABINA is co-funded by the Dept. of Science and Technology of South Africa. Project partners include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Tea Research Foundation of Central Africa (TRFCA), and the Universities of Der se Salaam. Malawi, Namibia, Pretoria and the Witwatersrand.