23 January 2019 | Story Charlene Stanley | Photo Charlene Stanley
Michele Middle
Michelle Middle, CMO of Farmovs, looks forward to expanding their operations after the UFS acquired 100% shareholding in 2018.

In medical research, there are NO shortcuts.

The journey of a new medicine from lab to pharmacy shelf takes on average at least 10 years.

Michelle Middle’s journey from young medical graduate starting her first job at FARMOVS to becoming the company’s Chief Medical Officer, was more than twice that long. It was a journey that systematically and adequately equipped her to now Co-captain this flagship enterprise through its biggest challenge yet.

Michelle remembers how Farmovs started in 1974 as a research centre in the Department of Pharmacology. After graduating as medical doctor, she joined Farmovs in 1993, shortly before they moved to their current extensive facilities just south of the Sasol Library.

In 2000, international Clinical Research Organization (CRO) giant Parexel acquired a 70% shareholding, and the name changed to Farmovs-Parexel.

“Parexel really invested a lot in infrastructure and technology, bringing facilities here on par with the best in the world,” says Michelle.

Her own journey in medical research took her to George and later to the US and UK, where she held various international executive leadership positions in international companies.

When the UFS acquired a 100% shareholding in Farmovs earlier this year, she came full circle, as she returned to Bloemfontein to spearhead the expansion of patient studies in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“The opportunities we have here are really enormous,” says an excited Michelle.

“We are the only university in the country with this kind of infrastructure. Apart from our state-of-the-art bioanalytical lab, we also have facilities to accommodate close to 100 research participants. We now have 45 years’ experience in advanced medical research, plus established international clients. We can provide pharmaceutical companies with basically everything they need to develop new medicines.”

Another exciting development is that they are expanding their clinical-trial patient population next year from healthy individuals to people suffering from a host of chronic conditions.

“While they are part of our clinical trials, patients gain valuable insight in their own conditions. We also sometimes pick up underlying medical issues they were not even aware of,” says Michelle.

The 150 Farmovs staff members range from doctors and nurses, to technologists, medical writers, and managers. While not technically part of the university staff, they form a valued part of the Bloemfontein Campus community.



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