CSIR signs deal on rabies research

2012-07-16 14:42
The CSIR has entered into a partnership that should the see the research organisation being granted access to a manufacturing platform for rabies medication. (AP)

The CSIR has entered into a partnership that should the see the research organisation being granted access to a manufacturing platform for rabies medication. (AP)

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VIDEO: Rabies symptoms

2012-07-16 14:37

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Cape Town - The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has entered into a partnership that should the see the research organisation being granted access to a plant-based manufacturing platform for rabies medication.

The CSIR concluded an agreement with Icon Genetics, subsidiary of Nomad Bioscience GmbH in Munich, to conduct royalty-free manufacturing of the rabies vaccine and post-exposure prophylaxis antibodies against rabies for the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

"Under the recently signed agreement, Icon will provide the materials, know-how, training, R&D [research and development] licence, as well as royalty free commercial licence option to the CSIR," the CSIR told News24.

The manufacturing technology known as magnICON allows for fast and high-level expression of recombinant proteins, in particular pharmaceuticals, in green plants.

"The speed, efficiency and yield of recombinant protein from plants provided by magnICON is the highest in the industry based on Frost & Sullivan's independent analysis of recombinant expression systems," said the CSIR.

Challenges

The partnership could potentially reduce the cost and accessibility challenges related to rabies medication. The disease affects the nervous system and the period between infection and the fist first flu-like symptoms is between two to 12 weeks.

The virus typically causes inflammation of the brain and though the infection is easily treatable, it is usually fatal once it reaches the central nervous system.

"Biopharming represents a unique opportunity for countries like South Africa to participate in the local production of high value biotechnology drugs and reagents for human and animal health," said Dr Rachel Chikwamba, the CSIR's group executive of Strategic Alliances and Communication.

Over 95% of rabies infections result from dog bites and despite the disease being eliminated in developed countries like Japan and the UK, it remains a problem in Africa, with 48 countries in need of medicines to control the disease.

It is estimated that around 55 000 people die annually from rabies, most of those in developing countries in Africa and Asia. In SA, between 10 to 30 cases of rabies are confirmed every year.

This partnership is the second major one signed between SA and an international company this year as part of the government's drive to reduce the cost of medicines.

HIV

The South African government recently created a joint venture with Swiss firm Lonza to produce active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for anti-retroviral medicines in SA.

South Africa imports over R25bn worth of drugs annually and it is estimated that local manufacture of the API will greatly reduce the cost of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria medications.

"We admire efforts at the CSIR to develop the new medicines for underprivileged parts of the world's population," said Dr Victor Klimyuk, Icon's chief operations officer.


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