Govt committed to fighting disease

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cape Town - Government is committed to developing new medicines to fight disease, says Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.

The minister was addressing the second meeting of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI) on Sunday.

ANDI is a proposed initiative aimed at discovering, developing and delivering affordable new medicines, including those based on traditional medicines.

"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," said Pandor.

This includes medicinal chemistry, high-throughput screening, preclinical testing facilities and capabilities, and the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

She said her department had established a number of platforms and centres of competence over the past year to stimulate and coordinate research activity and managing drugs, diagnostics and vaccine development projects particularly in the areas of HIV and AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB).

While still in the infancy, these initiatives will help minimise overhead costs and harness existing and fragmented capacity in South Africa.

Pandor said more than one billion people are infected with malaria, TB, and sleeping sickness, according to the World Health Organization.

"It's estimated that 14 million people die each year from communicable diseases such as malaria, TB, and sleeping sickness. An estimated 97 percent 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," said the minister.

She added that the establishment of ANDI would enable the country to deal with the crisis in research and development for neglected diseases.