US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is set to partner with South Africa's North-West University in preclinical research, a key field in the development of new drugs, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the company and the university this week.
According to a joint statement, the partnership could include the use of Pfizer's genetically modified animal models for testing the safety and efficacy of a range of new drugs, including treatments for cancer, heart disease and immune system disorders.
Joint research projects will be conducted at North-West University's (NWU's) Preclinical Drug Development Platform, a state-of-the-art facility with a permanent staff of 14 scientists that functions as a national study platform, supplying researchers across South Africa with the infrastructure for preclinical studies.
The facility was established, and is largely financed, by the Department of Science and Technology in order to enable a faster, more efficient drug discovery process in the country.
The memorandum of understanding was signed by the facility's director, Anne Grobler, and Pfizer's Gabriela Cézar, at Pfizer's R&D site in La Jolla, California on Monday.
Mikael Dolsten, president of worldwide research and development at Pfizer, said the company hoped the partnership would produce scientific and medical advances for patients in South Africa and beyond, adding: "We salute the South African government for fostering an environment that encourages and rewards investments in innovative research."
Grobler said NWU was "enthusiastic about the milestones we may be able to reach in the areas of infectious and chronic diseases that are so relevant to our South African society".
Mmboneni Muofhe, deputy director-general of technology innovation in the Department of Science and Technology, said the development of South Africa's pharmaceutical sector was a key component of the government's national bio-economy strategy, "so we are delighted to witness the very first step in this new partnership".