Public - Private partnership promises scientific capacity development and job opportunities

Cape Town, South Africa | A tri-partite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed this morning in the country’s legislative capital, between the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Novartis (Pty) Ltd and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is set to propagate investment into medical research and development on the African continent by focusing on scientific capacity development and creating new job opportunities in medical research.

This valiant partnership aims to deliver, amidst well known continent specific challenges such as limited access to sustained funding for research and development, measurable outcomes through the introduction of joint research programmes in selected communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCD’s); introduce innovative medicines at the point of care to improve patient health outcomes; and build an African ecosystem of research and development capabilities.   


“This public-private partnership positions South Africa as a nucleus of research and development to and for the African continent.  Designing burden specific programmes will increase the opportunities to generate new knowledge in focused research areas”, said Professor Richard Gordon, the SAMRC’s Executive Director: Grants, Innovation & Product Development (GIPD).  “Burden specific programmes allow us to create career opportunities for young scientists to respond to burden specific issues and ultimately grow the much needed critical mass in medical research”.  

The Department of Science and Technology’s Minister Naledi Pandor highlighted that international cooperation and partnerships such as these have been a consistently important aspect of national research and innovation programmes and strategies. "South Africa has a significant burden of disease, which has a major impact on mortality and health sector spending. The quadruple burden of HIV, TB, non-communicable diseases, and injuries must be addressed to improve the health of our society," said the Minister.

The three parties are currently engaged in a number of activities aimed at accelerating research capacity and innovation in South Africa. These include, but are not limited to, key initiatives in the fields of genetic research, drug discovery and development, clinical trials capabilities, and building the next generation of scientists.  Ultimately the resolve is to focus on capacity building, skills development and the investment into job opportunities. 

“As a global leader in R&D employing 20 000 scientists worldwide and investing $US9 billion in R&D every year, this ongoing collaboration has the potential to lead to breakthrough innovations stemming from South Africa,” said Novartis South Africa Country President, Dr Thomas Kowallik.  “Innovation will attract further investment with positive outcomes for the economy. We live in an era of innovation with a lot of opportunities, jobs and breakthroughs which are based on science and R&D. We as Novartis view South Africa as an ideal location for conducting such activities,” Dr Kowallik added.

Sustained investment

In 2009, Novartis (Pty) Ltd initiated a ground breaking program to develop human capacity in developing markets. Among the goals of this program was to select the best students from Africa, South America and Asia and offer them training at Novartis research sites across the world.  By partnering with scientific and clinical communities, Novartis has initiated new research initiatives in Africa and South America as a direct result of the program.

The Grants, Innovation and Product Development (GIPD) unit manages external grant funding and innovation activities within the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).  These activities are managed through a number of business units, platforms and programmes.  The Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) unit, which forms part of GIPD, manages funding for translational research and product development in key health priority focus areas, including NCDs.  Additional information on GIPD & SHIP can be accessed at:

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) supports a number of programmes, among which is the Strategic Health and Innovation Partnerships (SHIP). This programme, implemented by the SAMRC, seeks to develop new drugs, vaccines and other biologicals, diagnostics and medical devices for priority diseases or medical conditions in South Africa.

Release date: 
Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 13:07
Dr Alfred Thutloa
Contact: Dr Alfred Thutloa

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