13 July 2021 | Story ANDRÉ DAMONS | Photo Charl Devenish
From the left, front: Betsie Human (analyst), Mrs Pat Lamusse (Deputy Director: Institutional Advancement, UFS), Itumeleng Mabusa (analyst), and Zeenat Raffie (part-time analyst). From the left, back: Hanno du Preez (Director: SADoCoL) and Faith Latha (analyst) in front of the new Q Exactive HF-X instrument.

With funding from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), the South African Doping Control Laboratory (SADoCoL) was able to procure a R10 million Thermo QE-HF-X instrument, which will enable the laboratory to expand its capability to enhance analytical throughput and sensitivity as required by the International Standard for Laboratories set out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). 

SADoCoL, the only WADA-accredited laboratory in Africa, is located at the University of the Free State (UFS) and was awarded the funding in January. Mrs Patricia Lamusse, acting Director of the UFS Department of Institutional Advancement, applied for funding in early 2019, but the parties could only sign the agreement in 2021 after COVID-19 delayed the process. 

Continuous improvements are inevitable

Mr Hanno du Preez, Director of SADoCoL, says they are grateful for the funding received from the NLC to help pay for the new instrumentation. The UFS’ research fund also contributed money for the instrument. The high-resolution Orbitrap mass spectrometer, which was installed in June, is specifically designed for the analysis of high-molecular mass molecules, such as peptides and peptide fragments.

The installation was completed over a period of two weeks – spread over a month – as some parts needed to be delivered by the manufacturer. Says Du Preez: “The instrument is a high-resolution instrument, implicating that it has a fast detection rate with excellent sensitivity and can detect very low concentrations of large molecules. The instrument may also be used for the detection of insulins and insulin-like growth factors in human urine.”

According to Du Preez, the continuous improvement of an anti-doping laboratory is inevitable. He added that although the COVID-19 pandemic brought many negative challenges and changes, it also provided opportunities for certain sectors. 

“Due to the sudden standstill in organised sport, the laboratory was forced to explore supplementary revenue streams. The instrument will now be utilised on a routine basis for the analysis of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), growth hormone-releasing peptides, as well as research on the protein fragments developed from infection by the COVID-19 virus. 

“The laboratory has already implemented serology testing for COVID-19 in 2020, and this will enhance the test menu provided to clients,” says Du Preez. 

Delivers on mandate to ensure clean sport

A grateful Du Preez expresses appreciation to both the NLC and the UFS for the funding provided to purchase the instrument, and for the ongoing support to the laboratory. SADoCoL also acknowledges the exceptional efforts and hard work of Lamusse in securing funding from the NLC.

“This instrument will provide additional throughput and alleviate analytical capacity challenges in the laboratory. It will enhance the quality of screening analysis by improving the sensitivity of the analysis and will ensure that the laboratory delivers on its mandate to ensure clean sport,” says Du Preez. 

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