International Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Research collaborations on the cards for UFH

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On the 1st of April the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Partnership and Innovation, Dr Nthabi Taole-Mjimba hosted a team of experts and delegates from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the National Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to discuss future research collaborations.

The meeting was held at the Miriam Makeba Arts Centre on the East London Campus.

The ICGEB team was led by its Deputy-General, Dr Lawrence Banks while the DSI team was led by the Deputy Director-General, Dr Mmboneni Muofhe. UFH was represented by Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu and had representation from the faculties of Health Sciences and Sciences & Agriculture and the Govan Mbeki Research and Development Centre.

The ICGEB is a unique intergovernmental organisation initially established as a special project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Independent since 1994, it runs 46 state-of-the-art laboratories, in Trieste, Italy, New Delhi, India and Cape, South Afica and forms an interactive network with over 65  member states. It plays a key role in Biotechnology worldwide for excellence in Research, Training and Technology Transfer to industry to contribute in concrete terms to the achievement of sustainable global development and its operations are aligned to those of the United Nations System.

Expanding on the purpose of the meeting, Dr Muofe said the engagement was part of nationwide visits to higher learning institutions which started in October last year. “We are doing this to ensure that research opportunities, especially international ones, reach all our people.”

Dr Banks gave a lengthy presentation on what the ICGEB does and the opportunities it presents. This includes opportunities in the following research fields:

  1. Infectious Disease
  2. Non-communicable Disease
  3. Medical Biochemistry
  4. Industrial Biochemistry
  5. Plant Biology and Biotechnology

Dr Banks’ presentation was followed by an insightful overview of the University’s Research shared by Dr Toale-Mjimba. The Dean of Health Sciences, Prof Mzikazi Nduna and the Dean of Science & Agriculture, Prof Graeme Bradley gave a summary of some of the intriguing and important research projects, including national and international collaborations that are currently conducted by researchers in the respective faculties.

A robust discussion got underway by all attendees to explore ways of collaboration.

Dr Toale-Mjimba said: “What is evident after this engagement is that there is room for collaborations in capacity development, starting with the next generation of researchers such as postgraduate and specific programmes focusing on developing women in science. We also going to look into taking advantage of research grant opportunities in the Biotechnology and related fields.”  

The VC said: “This gathering is timely, it takes place one day after a council meeting where we were discussing new niche areas for the University’s Research. This meeting gives us that opportunity to discuss and begin to think about our new niche areas, especially around Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Engagements of this kind are very important, it sets the tone for national and international partnership and it sets the tone for new areas."


By Aretha Linden and Asaduma Baloyi 

Picture: Tim Wilson