Stellenbosch University’s new Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI) is both revolutionising healthcare in South Africa and setting new standards for biomedical science.

Additionally, the R1.2 billion facility has over 500 researchers and students working in fields such as bioinformatics, tuberculosis, neuroscience and urology. It will improve diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of illnesses.

Professor Nico Gey van Pittius, vice-dean of research and internationalisation at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, says Africa faces its own set of unique health challenges.

“As Africans we need to provide our own solutions and make sure that we are at a level that we can advance health in Africa with the latest technology and facilities that biomedical research can offer”, says Pittius.

Focus on Major Health Concerns: Research Priorities at the BMRI

The BMRI scientists focus their research on the conditions causing the most morbidity and mortality in South Africa. These include HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and maternal and child health, among others.

“During the pandemic we saw the need to quickly respond to infectious diseases, the need to be able to quickly determine and diagnose people who are ill and the need to develop therapeutics, vaccines and drugs”, says Pittius. 

 The BMRI scientists developed tuberculosis biomarkers that enable them to make clinical predictions long before the clinical outcome is reached. Additionally, other scientists at the institute have achieved new heights in cardiovascular physiology research.

The Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) is among the institute’s research groups. It focuses on innovative ways to save lives.

CERI is a partner-member of the South African mRNA Vaccine Consortium (SAMVAC). The World Health Organisation selected it to become the first Covid mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in the world.

Hoping for Solutions

Ceri’s Professor Tulio de Oliveira  says South Africa and Africa must lead in detecting pathogens around the world. 

“One thing we have learnt is that pathogens do not respect borders, even if you close down countries”, he says. 

Prof Oliveira adds the institute will help the World Health Organisation and Africa CDC respond to epidemics. “The effect of facilities like these on South Africa and Africa are very high. And we really hope that the solutions to our biggest diseases come from this facility”, he says. – Health-e News