Stellenbosch University (SU) welcomed Pres Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a ground-breaking Covid-19 and cancer vaccine initiative in South Africa, said acting Rector Professor Eugene Cloete.
SU is set to play a leading role in this ambitious initiative to expedite the development of 21st century immunotherapy for cancer and infectious disease and to position South Africa as a science and medicine hub of innovation for all of Africa through an extensive collaborative network.
The initiative is the brain-child of South African-born Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong and NantWorks, a California-based conglomerate and a world-leader in the digital revolution in healthcare, technology and media.
The collaborative network includes the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC); the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), which was officially launched last month and is led by SU’s Professor Tulio de Oliviera, its founding director; as well as the Universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Witwatersrand, and KwaZulu-Natal.
The launch of CERI, in collaboration with the SAMRC and Universities of Stellenbosch and KwaZulu-Natal, will enhance rapid genomic surveillance of and response to viral mutations occurring in Africa.
According to Professor De Oliviera, the Centre, which was established with the support of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, will allow genomics technologies to be used in real time to trace and respond to epidemics and pandemics in Africa.
“We are really excited to partner with Dr Soon-Shiong to set up the largest genomics facility on the African continent,” he said.
The Rockefeller Foundation welcomed the official launch of CERI, saying the Centre “will help improve genomic sequencing throughout sub-Saharan Africa and train the next generation of African scientists”.
SU will also be involved in the launch of clinical centres of excellence for the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases, such as Covid-19, HIV/AIDS and TB, through a collaboration with the SAMRC.
According to Professor De Oliviera, SU is excited about playing a leading role in this important initiative: “Building on research excellence via its DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research and African Cancer Institute, among others, the University is well poised to make a meaningful contribution to the initiative.”