Change the world


As SA heralds Gqeberha’s Aspen Pharmacare for producing 30 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, a chemistry professor in the same city is quietly hoping to take the drug story much further.

Nelson Mandela University’s Professor Paul Watts believes flow chemistry technology is integral to setting up new manufacturing facilities, which will make life-saving medicine both affordable and accessible.

Right now, says Watts, nearly all the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are imported and this costs South Africa billions of rands each year.

This lack of local APIs has restricted production of many essential drugs, a fact reflected also in the slow and stuttering vaccine roll-out.

“There is a shortage of drugs in the country and they are expensive,” says Watts. “We’ve seen with Covid-19 that we need to start manufacturing drugs in the country at [a] lower cost and simultaneously create a new industry which will employ people.”

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Wriiten by Gillian McAinsh and published in the Daily Maverick (DM168) on 9 May 2021.

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