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Parliament Briefed on Covid-19 Research

March 17, 2022

Department of Science and Innovation

The science and innovation department has made R147 million available for Covid-19 research and innovation since March 2020.

The department revealed this during a recent briefing to parliament on Covid-19 research.

The department added that there are currently 30 Covid-19 projects funded by the South African Medical Research Council from the department’s allocation.

Additional funding has also been made available for genomic surveillance and in support of the mRNA technology transfer and training hub.

Last year, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced that South Africa will become the first Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.

WHO aims to expand the capacity of low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) to produce Covid-19 vaccines and scale up manufacturing to increase global access to vaccines to bring the pandemic under control.

Technology transfer hubs will use a hub and spoke model to transfer a comprehensive technology package and provide appropriate training to interested manufacturers in LMICs.

In terms of the technology transfer hubs, the department emphasised that key focus areas for the next three months include setting up active working relationships with the mRNA Hub Spokes; completing the recruitment of key positions and the equipment procurement and installation; starting GMP pDNA production using the mRNA sequence; continuing hands on training for the team; keeping on track with the goal to have the facility audited and licenced by SAHPRA by June 2022; developing product development plan for next generation Covid-19 vaccine candidate as well as priority diseases such as HIV, TB, Malaria, etc and concluding key technical partnerships for the mRNA Hub.

In another briefing, the department outlined policy priorities for 2022/23.

Priorities include:

• Enabling the modernisation of sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, agriculture and mining to ensure their competitiveness and contribution to higher GDP growth.
• Exploiting new sources of growth such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the circular/green and digital economies;
• Increasing the National System of Innovation contribution to exports through measures to accelerate the conversion of research ideas and knowledge into products and services;
• Supporting local economic development in line with the District Development Model;
• Contributing to environmental sustainability through research and innovation initiatives such as clean energy and technologies to support the water and waste sectors; and
• Using technological advancement to contribute to an STI-enabled capable state for improved service delivery and decision making.