The state of science in South Africa

Sixty-one years ago, South Africa's linkurl:Council for Scientific and Industrial Research;http://www.csir.co.za/plsql/ptl0002/ptl0002_pge001_home was established by a parliamentary decree that specifically required it to undertake research that improves the linkurl:wellbeing;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23120/ of the country's people. Given this, I wasn't really surprised, on visiting CSIR's sprawling campus on the outskirts of the city of Pretoria, to find biosciences researchers

By | April 4, 2006

Sixty-one years ago, South Africa's linkurl:Council for Scientific and Industrial Research;http://www.csir.co.za/plsql/ptl0002/ptl0002_pge001_home was established by a parliamentary decree that specifically required it to undertake research that improves the linkurl:wellbeing;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23120/ of the country's people. Given this, I wasn't really surprised, on visiting CSIR's sprawling campus on the outskirts of the city of Pretoria, to find biosciences researchers focusing on issues to do with HIV, malaria, linkurl:tuberculosis;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15477/ and improving nutrition. I dropped by the campus during my 10 day linkurl:trip to Africa;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23265/ on behalf of The Scientist to linkurl:survey;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/21567/ the region?s science. In the plant biotechnology group, for example, group leader Rachel Chikwamba showed me around one lab where investigators are using microarrays and proteomics to examine lead compounds from indigenous plants as potential antimalarials. Down the hall, she introduced me to investigators who have had some success in producing plants that express a rabies monoclonal antibody. In the greenhouses outside, her group is growing transgenic sorghum -- an African crop plant. In one project their aim is to develop sorghum lines with nutritional enhancements such as added vitamins, amino acids, iron or zinc. And elsewhere in the building, Makohetsa Khati told me that he is building on work he conducted at Oxford University to utilize aptamer technology for developing novel antiretrovirals and diagnostic tools for diseases like tuberculosis. As the CSIR's group manager for research and development, David Walwyn, told me this morning, South Africa's research strengths have long included the medical and biological sciences. Given some of the enormous health challenges facing the country today, this is at least something to be thankful for.

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