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  • Socio-economic impact of malaria and the status of malaria research in South Africa

    22nd Oct 2005

    Malaria is the world’s most important parasitic disease. Clearly a disease of poverty, commonly referred to as a “neglected disease”, it rates amongst one of the major health and development challenges facing many of the poorest countries in the world.

    At the end of 2004, 107 countries and territories had areas at risk of malaria transmission, with about 40% of the world’s population living in these areas. Up to 500 million clinical cases and 2 million deaths are reported annually, of which 57% occur in Africa, 30% in Asia and around 5% in the Americas.

    Although millions of patients are affected by parasitic diseases every year, their inability to pay for market-financed products has resulted in a lack of innovative products and only 10% of global R&D resources directed at such diseases, including malaria, that account for 90% of the global disease burden.

    The South African Malaria Initiative (SAMI) contracted Dr Lorraine Thiel to gather information about the scale of the malaria problem, the international funding streams and the local role players in malaria research. Two reports, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, were submitted to DST in October this year.

    These reports, from which the above extracts have been taken, are made available here as downloadable pdf files. They remain the property of the Department of Science and Technology.

    Report Section 1 – PDF file size 612 KB
    Gathering of Data on the Global Epidemiology of the Malaria Threat, Applied Interventions and Socio-economic Impact

    Report Section 2 – PDF file size 913 KB
    Gathering of Data on the Funding Mechanisms for Malaria Research and the Status of Malaria Research in South Africa

  • BioPad supports ACGT microarray facility

    21st Oct 2005

    The Biotechnology Partnership and Development (BioPAD) is supporting a microarray platform project at the ACGT Microarray Facility at the University of Pretoria. Established under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology and its National Biotechnology Strategy, BioPAD activities are aimed at establishing a sustainable biotechnology industry in South Africa and helping to meet the regions biotechnology challenges. (more…)

  • Flagship programmes identified for the South African Malaria Initiative

    14th Oct 2005

    The Malaria Initiative for Africa (MIA) recently underwent a name change to SAMI – the South African Malaria Initiative. The initiative resulted from the deliberations of a core group of researchers from around the country who met at the University of Pretoria in January this year to discuss a collaborative initiative to promote the use of advanced biotechnologies in malaria drug discovery, diagnostics and epidemiology. (more…)

  • FABI to host Sudanese researcher as part of Generation Challenge Programme

    13th Oct 2005

    A researcher from the Agricultural Research and Technology Cooperation (ARTC) in Sudan, Dr Adam Mohamed Ali Hamid, was recently awarded a General Challenge Programme (GCP) travel grant to work at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) housed at the University of Pretoria. (more…)

  • ACGT receives visit from French experts

    22nd Jun 2005

    The ACGT Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit at the University of Pretoria received a visit on 19 April from a French CNRS delegation who were exploring potential linkages between France and South Africa in the bionformatics field. The visit was organized in the context of NEPAD collaborative activities.

    Bioinformatics activities in Pretoria were highlighted and potential collaborations were discussed, particularly in the area of malaria bioinformatics.

  • International cooperation aims to address poverty and health in Africa

    22nd Nov 2004

    The needs and opportunities to address Africa’s problems of poverty and health are unprecedented. Science and technology based organisations worldwide, as well as the civil society and international agencies, are intensifying their efforts to achieve meaningful community development in the region.

    Prof Jane Morris of the ACGT and Prof Andre Oelofse, Director of the Centre for Nutrition at the University of Pretoria, met with Prof Andrew Collins, Professor of Nutrition Biology at the University of Oslo in Norway in October this year, to discuss the submission of a proposal to the European Union 6th Framework Programme for training and capacity building. The focus of the proposal will be on nutritional genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.

    The opportunities to link cutting edge genomics techniques to solve problems related to malnutrition in Africa were also discussed and it was agreed that there were significant opportunities for collaboration.

    An international nutrition congress is to be held in South Africa in September next year and will include a focus on nutrigenomics. See www.puk.ac.za/fakulteite/voeding/iuns for details.

  • Modern-day Rosetta Stone helping to decode biological life

    22nd Oct 2004

    The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which enabled the decoding of hieroglyphics, helped to open up historical treasures and put historical events into perspective. Today Bioinformatics, the modern-day Rosetta Stone in Biology, is as significantly, helping to decode biological life in the finest detail. (more…)

  • South African Biotechnologists participate in major new European Food Safety Research Project

    22nd Aug 2004

    Food safety comes under the spotlight in a new European Commission-funded research project in which 33 leading organisations worldwide are participating. South Africa has become the only participating African partner and one of only two non-European countries through the inclusion of CSIR Food, Biological and Chemical Technologies in the research consortium. The research will attempt to improve current risk analysis practices for food produced by different breeding approaches and production practices.

    “Food safety incidents such as Mad Cow Disease, the spreading of dioxins in animal feed and animal-derived foods as well as emerging pathogens have evoked broad public concerns in Europe. In addition, public doubts about the safety of genetically modified (GM) food crops with respect to human consumption and adverse effects on the environment resulted in a European moratorium on the large-scale cultivation of transgenic food crops. These factors have all contributed to the investment in a research project on food safety”, says CSIR biotechnology specialist Prof Jane Morris, Director of the African Centre for Gene Technologies, a SERA initiative (SERA, the Southern Education and Research Alliance, is a strategic partnership between the CSIR and the University of Pretoria).

    The four-year research project will attempt to answer questions such as whether the different agricultural production systems – traditional high input agriculture, low input production as carried out by small-scale farmers, and cultivation of GM crops as food – carry different risks and whether the globalisation of trade may lead to new risks with negative impact on human health and the environment, for instance the spread of new virulent pathogens or antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. It will look at new approaches to evaluate the cumulative effects of contaminants and natural toxins through for example toxicity models; at ways of incorporating public concerns into food safety issues; and what changes are needed at institutional structures in an improved risk analysis scenario.

    The comparative risk analysis of foods produced by conventional versus modern biotechnology methods, using the latest metabolic profiling methods, is a key part of the research and is the area in which South African scientists intend making a significant contribution. The project also includes a significant training component to build the capacity of South African scientists in this high-tech field.

    Molecular biologists, analytical scientists and plant pathologists at the CSIR will be joined by research peers at the Agricultural Research Council and the University of Pretoria to research the two commercially-important crops that have been selected, namely potatoes (the fourth most important world food crop) and maize (the third most planted field crop in the world). They will investigate the plants’ metabolic profiles, derived from the chemical reactions that occur during synthesis and breakdown, as well as the variations in the proteome (the total complement of proteins) produced. This will be done for plants showing “natural” variations, somaclonal variations (eg through tissue culture procedures) and GMOs; for plant materials produced under different production systems; and for plants with fungal or bacterial contamination in comparison with uninfected plants.

    “From a South African perspective, we are particularly interested in the results of nutritional comparisons of crops farmed in a high-input agricultural production system as opposed to low-input small-holder farming”, says Dr Morris.

    She says in addition to the potential value of the research outcome to which South Africa will have access, the opportunity for South African scientists to interact with the world’s best researchers in this domain, is invaluable. This has been made possible by a significant investment by the Department of Science and Technology, first through availing seed funding for meetings and networking that led to the CSIR joining the consortium, and subsequently through a financial commitment to the project.

    Internationally, the Safe Foods project is coordinated by the RIKILT Institute of Food Safety, part of Wageningen University Research in the Netherlands.

  • ACGT participates in food safety discussions in India

    22nd Jun 2004

    The need to stimulate an enabling environment for the development and introduction of GM (genetically modified) crops by Asian countries, based on their own identified priorities, was recently a key point of discussion at a food safety course in India. (more…)

  • ACGT facility involved in veterinary vaccines project

    22nd Apr 2004

    One of the projects being undertaken at the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit is the annotation of Ehrlichia ruminantium, a bacterial genome that is the causative agent of heartwater in cattle. This genome was recently sequenced by Prof Basil Allsopp’s research team, first at the ARC Onderstepoort and more recently at the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases at the University of Pretoria. (more…)