The last weekend of July saw the launch of the 2022 annual National Science Week. After a two-year break as a result of Covid-19, the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, requested the University to host its event. During the build-up to the event which was launched on 30 July 2022, the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Dr Manyane Makua, welcomed the request from government departments, and said the University would make the necessary resources available so the project would be a success.
The highlights of the launch were the University’s research efforts, and a presentation by 12-year-old Nokwazi Mbhele, a grade 7 learner from Ngilosi Primary School in Umlazi Township.
The presentations on the University’s research indicated that the University was well on its way to competing with some of the best in the world in terms of research. Dr Njabulo Gumede’s presentation on his cancer research had an immediate impact. Dr Gumede said that a conversation he had with Professor Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Research Foundation (NRF). Dr Gumede said that further talks with the CEO would discuss how NRF would assist him in reaching milestones planned between 2022-2024.
“I was also fortunate to be approached by Dr Rebecca Maserumule from Department of Science and Innovation. Dr Maserumule will connect me with the department that funds manufacturing start-ups. I have also spoken to Khamusi Mutoti, from the Medical Controls Council, to discuss Investigational new drug registration of the experimental therapeutics,” said Dr Gumede.
Dr Gumede said that before regulatory approval, the new therapeutic drug needs to be manufactured in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and at an appropriate formulation-approved site. The GMP is a system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. It is designed to minimize the risks involved in any pharmaceutical production that cannot be eliminated through testing the final product.
The audience was also captivated by the presentation by Professor Akash Anandraj, the Director of the Department of Nature Conservation’s Centre for Algal Biotechnology. Professor Anandraj listed the milestones that his centre has achieved. These include the discovery of how biodiesel and jet fuel can be generated using algae. Together with colleagues in the centre, and the department of Civil Engineering, Professor Anandraj focuses on environmentally-friendly renewable energy. They have written and published several research papers based on this theme, in world-class journals.
All the research by the MUT’s staff was described as groundbreaking by Dr Phil Mjwara, the Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation, who represented Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation at the ceremony.