NWU and partners launch API Plus lab to grow SA's bio-economy

Issued by North West University
Johannesburg, Mar 16, 2022
Acting NWU vice-chancellor Prof Linda du Plessis addresses the audience during the launch of the API Plus laboratory.

The North-West University (NWU), in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), recently launched the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) Plus laboratory.

The project, a joint initiative between government, academia and industry, aims to promote the manufacturing of APIs in South Africa and stimulate the growth of the country's bio-economy.

The API Plus laboratory is part of the API Technology Innovation Cluster, which is managed by the NWU, in collaboration with all local universities and research institutions.

It is an important resource for partners and stakeholders, including students and researchers of API cluster research projects.

The laboratory is based in Watloo, Pretoria, and will develop innovative and competitive processes to manufacture APIs, with the aim of creating local capacity for API manufacture in South Africa. This initiative is set to save the country billions of rands presently spent on APIs.

According to acting NWU vice-chancellor Prof Linda du Plessis, the vision of the API cluster is to establish a world-class API manufacturing facility for the whole of Africa.

During the official opening of the cluster that was attended by Science and Innovation deputy minister Buti Manamela, Prof Du Plessis revealed that the API cluster was involved in several research projects. 

“These projects included using enzymes to produce building blocks for antiretrovirals (ARVs) in partnership with Wits University, and synthesising angiotensin receptor blockers using myosynthesised nanoparticles to catalyse the process in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape.”

Prof Du Plessis added that the cluster was also involved in flow process development for antiparasitics in collaboration with the University of Pretoria; the development of a commercial manufacturing process for ARVs in collaboration with Wits; and the development of a cost-effective continuous flow synthesis of antimalarials, working with Nelson Mandela University.

She further highlighted that the cluster is collaborating with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on an important antimalaria project.

"One of the important milestones is the development of simpler and more cost-effective flow processes for the APIs of interest. We hope that this laboratory will help multiply the impact of research and development on many other initiatives."