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SA to bid for biotech lab

South Africa is to bid for the establishment of a third component for the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in the country.

Science and Technology minister Mosibudi Mangena announced in Cape Town on Tuesday that the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Institute for Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM) would be South Africa’s candidate institution to host the major international laboratory.

Established in 1987 by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the ICGEB is an inter-governmental organisation that operates in contact with the UN Common System as a centre of excellence for research and training in biotechnology and genetic engineering, focusing on the needs of the developing world.

The ICGEB places major emphasis on health-related research activities as well as on projects aimed at the sustainable application of biotechnology in agriculture.

Currently, there are only two ICGEB components in the world, stationed at laboratories in Trieste, Italy and New Delhi in India. Tanzania and Nigeria will also be submitting proposals to establish the first component centre in Africa.

The concept of the location of the third component centre in Africa, Mangena emphasized, has the support of many European countries and the G8 as indicated in the 2005 Gleneagles Summit Declaration.

South Africa ’s potential benefits, should it win the bid, include human capital development, state-of-the-art research facilities in biotechnology as well as opportunity for innovation solutions to some of the continent’s health and agricultural challenges.

"Hosting the third ICGEB component will boost South Africa’s profile as the preferred destination for global science and technology initiatives. It will in fact assist in making South Africa a major international Biotechnology Hub.

"It will also strengthen the country’s role in driving Africa’s development not only from a political and economic perspective but also in terms of innovation and technology," said Mangena.

The Department of Science and Technology plans to set aside R22 million over the next three years for the establishment of the third ICGEB component in South Africa.

Mangena said the third ICGEB component would also contribute to the global effort to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These include halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases by 2015.



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