Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor MP, at the second stakeholder’s meeting of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI), Cape Town
4 Oct 2009
Ambassador Tom Mboya from the Kenyan mission in Geneva
Prof Anthony Mbewu, President of the Medical Research Council
The ANDI task team
The conference organisers
Members of the press
Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the second stakeholder meeting of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI).
This meeting is an opportunity to bring together participants from almost all countries in Africa in the interest of research, development and innovation.
I am delighted that organisers chose to hold this meeting here in Cape Town and I hope that all visiting dignitaries and delegates will enjoy not only this meeting but also the variety of attractions that Cape Town has to offer.
I would like to thank the distinguished panel of speakers representing government Ministries, African institutions and researchers, science councils, donor agencies, pharmaceutical companies, non-governmental governmental (NGOs), the World Health Organisation and other international organisations, for making this meeting a reality.
I hope that all participants will take this opportunity to network around a common goal which is health innovation for development.
ANDI will be a key contributor to medical progress that will turn fundamental research findings into innovative treatments that are not only available but also, and more importantly, accessible to patients who need these medicines, particularly on the African continent.
The Technology Innovation Agency will provide improved government funding for innovation
Incidentally, the South African Department of Science and Technology launched the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) earlier this year. This agency is one of the ways in which we plan to improve government funding of innovation.
Through the TIA, we hope to address the challenges posed by the "valley of death" that exists between reasrch and development (R&D) and diffusion into the market. As you know, most governments are happy to fund innovations in the R&D phase and then business is keen to fund products that are ready for the market.
However, it is in the "valley of death" in between - in the demonstration and deployment phases in between R&D and the market - that most innovation fails. That’s where innovation needs the most support and where it is least likely to get it from the only agents available - venture capitalists or "business angels".
The Department of Science and Technology is also developing what we call the "Farmer to Pharma Grand Challenge" as part of our ten-year innovation plan.
Over the next decade, we intend to become a world leader in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
The South African government has committed itself to the establishment of the necessary initiatives and infrastructure that will assist in the drug-development value-chain. This includes medicinal chemistry, high-throughput screening, preclinical testing facilities and capabilities, and the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API’s).
This initiative is in line with the objective of ANDI to "promote African-led product R&D innovation through the discovery, development and delivery of affordable new tools, including those based on traditional medicines".
Centres of Competence aim to stimulate product-oriented innovation
In the past year, Department of Science and Technology (DST) has also established a number of platforms and centres of competence aimed at stimulating and coordinating research activity and managing drugs, diagnostics and vaccine development projects particularly in the areas of HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB).
These initiatives are still in their infancy and they use a virtual model of drug, vaccine and/or diagnostic development that is intended to minimise overhead costs and harness existing but fragmented capacity in South Africa.
Typically, these initiatives play a coordinating role in setting a disease specific R&D agenda, raising funds and managing R&D projects.
Importantly, Centres of Competence aim to stimulate product-oriented innovation. The objective is to avoid the "valley of death" and to create opportunities for commercialisation of products and services that will reduce the burden of diseases affecting the majority of our people.
Plans are underway to establish more centres of competence and service and technology platforms in key areas that will assist in linking academic and research institutes and science councils with private industry.
Building on existing networks and creating new synergies, we also plan to extend our collaborations in this regard with partners in both developed and developing countries, including research institutions, governments, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and international organisations.
More than 1 billion people are infected with malaria, TB, and sleeping sickness
I would also like to draw your attention today to neglected diseases, the majority of which affect developing countries, particularly those in Africa.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1 billion people, representing one sixth of the world population, are infected with one or more of these diseases that have very low priority in national health programmes.
It's estimated that 14 million people die each year from communicable diseases such as malaria, TB and sleeping sickness. An estimated 97% of deaths from infectious diseases occur in developing countries, with the poorest people in those nations disproportionately affected.
I am sure we will all agree that there is an urgent need to ensure a robust research pipeline full of newer, more effective, easier-to-use medicines.
So far this critical need has not attracted the investments required to deal with this problem. Millions are suffering and dying as a result, and it is this crisis to which I would like to draw your attention today.
The establishment of ANDI will enable us to deal with the crisis in research and development for neglected diseases. I would like to encourage you to put your heads together and work with each other to find African solutions for African problems.
In conclusion, the launch of ANDI is a very important milestone not only for African researchers (and their partners) who will be responsible for realising the vision of ANDI but also for local communities who will reap the benefits of having access to locally developed health products.
You are making the African Research and Innovation Area a reality and thereby demonstrating that working together at a continental level makes a lot of good sense, with strong added value for companies and researchers working at national or regional level. I count on you to continue working relentlessly in this direction and you can count on the support of the South African government.
With that, I wish you all a very fruitful and successful meeting.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
4 October 2009
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
4 Oct 2009
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