Enabling local innovation to grow the health sector.

The global health sector is continually evolving. Adapting and growing with each new exciting innovation and technological breakthrough. This is no less true of our local industry in South Africa. South Africa possesses a rich and diverse array of skills, innovations, and resources that are currently reshaping the future of the health industry. By unlocking innovation and fostering new opportunities for local businesses to play a larger role in the industry, it is poised for significant growth while meeting the health needs of society.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is spearheading this growth. We are actively facilitating local research, development, and innovation capabilities that support the growth of pharmaceutical ingredient production, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics, and medical devices. By addressing the disease burden in our country and ensuring a stable supply of treatment, we can set our society up to be empowered, and to thrive.

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Importance of local innovations

There are many reasons why local health care innovation is crucial for our country and society. Not only does it allow us to address local health care needs, but it also supports sustainable development, economic growth, and the well-being of the population. By nurturing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the health sector, we aim to pave the way for a healthier future for all.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has made significant investments in flagship initiatives aimed at promoting nuclear medicine research and development. Through their support of NuMeRI's innovative imaging equipment, which represents the next generation in diagnosis and treatment, drug development and clinical research in precision medicine have become possible. This advancement enables early and accurate diagnosis, allowing for the precise treatment of conditions such as tuberculosis, cancer, and heart diseases.

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Another key flagship initiative of The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is the focus on building world-class Omics capacity in South Africa. OMICS is the study of the molecular make-up of an individual or organism. By understanding the ingredients of life on earth, we can better development ways to enhance and preserve it, such as medicines and treatments. Through our investment in DIPLOMICS, a national network of research and service laboratories dedicated to the Omics community, we are able to progress medicine in South Africa. DIPLOMICS supports research into Omics by providing access to laboratories and facilities, technical training, and Omics information and data – making more effective, targeted medicines a possibility.

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Building the health industry through public-private partnerships.

Great achievements come from great partnerships. The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) recognises the importance of fostering partnerships that facilitate the rapid scaling of innovations to meet the pressing needs of society. We know that, sometimes, having a great idea is not enough, you need access to the means to bring that idea to life on a scale that can make a real impact. By supporting top minds and ideas through open, mutually beneficial partnerships, we are able uplift our health sector and our country as a whole. Two such partnerships are playing a pivotal role in saving the lives of many South Africans.

In 2003, a public-private partnership was established with Biovac, a pharmaceutical manufacturing business with the capacity for vaccine research, development, and production. Recently, Biovac was allocated US$5 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support their mission to make childhood vaccines accessible to all. mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria, and Lassa fever, are helping us win the battle against these killers. Giving companies such as Biovac access to innovative mRNA technology will help ensure more people, particularly children, benefit from next-generation vaccines.

Another public-private partnership, this time with with Capebio, is making a significant impact in the field of diagnostics. During COVID, they swiftly mobilised talent and technology to develop and manufacture PCR In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) tests that received regulatory approval, ultimately contributing to saving lives through accurate diagnosis.

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Stimulating SMME development in the health sector.

The health industry is predominantly lead by large international companies, which makes entry for smaller companies challenging. The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is steadfast in its commitment to supporting the development of Small, Medium, and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) in the health sector, with notable success in the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) sector.

Through investments in the University of the Free State and CSIR, research and development capabilities have been established to bolster the health, beauty, and nutritional segments of the market. By collaborating closely with local communities and businesses, indigenous knowledge is being both commercialised and protected. These institutions, in partnership with SMMEs, offer a wide array of medicinal teas, natural supplements, cannabis personal care products that are ready for commercialisation.

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How to access local innovation and grow the health industry.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has launched an initiative aimed at promoting local health innovations in research, development, and manufacturing. This initiative will have a positive impact on the local health industry while aligning with the bioeconomy strategy. To learn more about these innovations, please visit innovation.bridge.info, where you can meet the project leaders and engage in discussions to find out more. DSI, making sure it’s possible.

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