UCT alumnus and former Coke CEO donates millions to UCT to find new crucial drugs

2019-06-27 12:33
UCT vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng (Esa Alexander, Gallo Images)

UCT vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng (Esa Alexander, Gallo Images)

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A University of Cape Town alumnus has given the tertiary institution about R18m towards research about new life-saving drugs for infectious diseases.

Neville Isdell, a former Coca-Cola chairperson and CEO, donated $1.24m to the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D. According to UCT, the "generous donation" will be used to establish an initial five-year Neville Isdell Chair in African-Centric Drug Discovery and Development at H3D.

H3D's director and founder, Professor Kelly Chibale, will hold the chair position, which includes the directorship of H3D.

"I am excited about playing a part in helping to achieve African solutions to public health challenges on the continent and across the world. I hope this support will help Professor Chibale to drive and lead innovative research and development (R&D) of new malaria medicines, as well as new tuberculosis (TB) and antimicrobial resistance treatments, and train a new generation of African scientists with key modern pharmaceutical skills required to discover modern medicines," said Isdell.

The donation will be used partly to lead efforts in establishing the H3D African Drug Metabolism and Disposition Project, also known as the H3D 'African Liver Project'.

Chibale said the aim was to develop a pre-clinical discovery tool that could be used to prioritise drug candidates.

"In addition to providing useful data for targeted clinical trial design, and eventually for the establishment of better directed drug dosage and dosage intervals, the 'African Liver Project' will also make H3D a unique centre of excellence where scientists from the Global North and Africa will work hand in hand to better understand genetic variability in diverse African populations," said Chibale.

Potentially life-saving work

H3D was launched eight years ago and is home to 60 staffers. It has in its portfolio a potential drug for malaria in human trial phase.

The anti-malarial candidate has the potential to cure, block transmission and protect in a single dose. Its portfolio also includes projects around tuberculosis and antimicrobial resistance.

UCT vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, said the generous donation was an endorsement of the pioneering research and work done by H3D, and would help to expand its potentially life-saving work within Africa.

"Because of H3D's initial achievements, the chair will be extremely well placed to assume a leadership role in finding effective solutions to the discovery of life-saving innovative new medicines. The post will be powerfully placed for guiding thinking, discussion and decision-making on the African continent.

"Its impact will be both wide-ranging and novel since H3D is the first and only one of its kind on the African continent, and one of the rare integrated drug discovery and development centres set up within an academic environment worldwide."

Last year, Chibale was named as one of Fortune magazine's "50 World's Greatest Leaders" for 2018 for his work, and was included in Fortune magazine's annual list of "Influential figures we admire most".

Isdell was born in Ireland and raised in Zambia. He pursued a Bachelor of Social Science degree at UCT and later joined Coca-Cola in Zambia in 1966, before rising to CEO of The Coca-Cola company in the mid-2000s.

Read more on:    uct  |  cape town  |  academics  |  health  |  medicine  |  education

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