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13 May 2019 | Story Zama Feni | Photo Charl Devenish
Dr Quinton Meyer and Marlena Visagie
National Control Laboratory Deputy Director, Dr Quinton Meyer (right), and Marlena Visagie, Quality Assurance Manager, at the laboratory within their facilities at the University of the Free State.

The University of the Free State-based National Control Laboratory for Biological Products (NCL) has maintained its esteemed status as a pharmaceutical testing laboratory after the South African Accreditation System (SANAS) further endorsed its quality-management systems as of high standard according to the International Standards Organisation’s requirements.

The Director of the NCL, Professor Derek Litthauer, said their laboratory – which is also approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has again achieved the international testing standards. The cherry on top was that the NCL also received a certificate of Good Manufacturing Compliance (GMP) from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). 

NCL is for Africa and the World 

Some of the factors that make the NCL an esteemed institution, is the fact that it is one of 12 laboratories worldwide to perform vaccine testing for the WHO; the NCL is the only vaccine-testing laboratory in the country that performs the final quality-control testing of all human vaccine batches marketed in South Africa on behalf of SAHPRA. 

For example, Prof Litthauer said that the influenza vaccine batches currently available on the South African market, were tested by the NCL for quality before authorising their release for sale to the public. This process is followed for all human vaccines used in SA.

 “In our role as vaccine-testing laboratory for the WHO, the NCL helps to ensure that the vaccines purchased through the WHO prequalification programme for international distribution to resource-limited countries, meet the high standards of quality, safety, and efficiency. 
The NCL was one of the first full members of the WHO NCL Network for Biologicals, which consists of full and associate members of regulatory authorities from more than 30 countries.

The NCL systems are world-class

Prof Litthauer said this achievement is recognition that their laboratory complies with specific international standards with respect to its quality-management system. 
“In practice, it means that the laboratory has all the quality systems in place to ensure high-quality test results. The GMP certification is a further step, meaning that laboratory testing is on the expected level for any pharmaceutical testing laboratory and manufacturer. It is a very strict certification.”

He further mentioned that the NCL is also licensed as a pharmaceutical manufacturer. “Although we do not manufacture, we have to comply with manufacturing standards.”
“It is rare for a pharmaceutical testing laboratory (such as the NCL) outside of a manufacturing context to qualify for both certifications. It means that the NCL complies with exceptionally strict standards for pharmaceutical labs anywhere in the world,” he said.
The certification provides the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the World Health Organisation, and other national control laboratories around the world, with the confidence that the test results from the NCL can be trusted.


There can be no compromise for quality 

The NCL Quality Assurance Manager, Mrs Marlena Visagie, said, “It is essential that the NCL complies with the highest international quality-assurance standards to ensure that all the lot-release operations, such as manufacturing review and quality testing, are performed in a reliable and reproducible manner.”

“There can be no compromise when it comes to the quality of medicines which are made available to the public,” she said.

“What makes this special, is that the NCL does not only comply with international ISO/IEC standards for pharmaceutical testing, but also with the additional GMP standards required by a pharmaceutical manufacturer. This means that the NCL must ensure that all its operations, including everything from the way documents are compiled and stored, to the maintenance of equipment and infrastructure as well as staff competency, are performed according to international guidelines.”

All NCL staff share vision of excellence

Prof Litthauer said the NCL has a staff complement of 15 technical, administrative, and support staff.  Four staff members have PhDs, and the rest of the technical staff have master’s or bachelor’s degrees or are trained as medical technologists. “At the moment, our biggest problem is to get enough suitable space to expand our testing,” he said.

Prof Litthauer said, “All the staff members at the NCL share the vision of excellence, which makes this kind of achievement possible.”
The NCL will host the third annual meeting of the WHO NCL Network in November of this year and will then be reassessed again by the WHO as part of the normal three-year cycle of assessments.  

News Archive

UFS Communication and Brand Management wins for the third time in the 2017 International Gold Quill Awards
2017-06-29

Description: 2017 International Gold Quill Awards Tags: 2017 International Gold Quill Awards

Lacea Loader, Director: Communication and Brand
Management and Leonie Bolleurs, Assistant Director:
Internal Communication in the same department.
The awards were presented at the Excellence
Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. on
Tuesday 13 June 2017.
Foto: Hannes Pieterse

The Department of Communication and Brand Management at the University of the Free State (UFS) has won two International Gold Quill Awards from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for projects executed in 2016. “Winning two Gold Quill Awards put the entrant in the top ranks of the business communicators of the world,” said Ghrethna Kruger, IABC 2017 Quill Awards Chair South Africa.

The Department won Gold Quill Merit Awards for their entries of the publication, For such a time as this: A commemorative journey, and the communication process with prospective students through the Sound[W]right: UFS student tone and voice project.

Two Gold Quill Awards in 2017
This is the third time the department has received recognition by the IABC. In 2014, it received the Jake Wittmer Research Award, a Gold Quill Merit Award, and an Africa Gold Quill Award. In 2015 the department received an Africa Merit Award, Africa Gold Quill Merit Award, a Gold Quill Merit Award, and a Gold Quill Excellence Award. “I am very proud of the nine awards we have won over the past couple of years. Being recognised by a prestigious global association such as the IABC is a great honour. The fact that the UFS is the only tertiary education institution in the country to receive awards this year makes it even more special," said Lacea Loader, Director: Communication and Brand Management at the UFS.

With the 2017 IABC Awards the IABC has in total recognised 227 entries as world class, announcing 74 Excellence Awards and 153 Merit Awards. They represent a cross-section of public- and private-sector organisations, both large and small. This year there were 13 winners from South Africa compared to last year’s three winners.

Work reflects superior production values
Entries were evaluated against the IABC Gold Quill Awards criteria and IABC’s seven-point scale of excellence. Feedback from the IABC Gold Quill evaluators, on the publication, For such a time as this: A commemorative journey stated: “Exceptional effort and an excellent gift that celebrates your honoree and preserves school history. It demonstrates superior production values and strong images convey key messages.”

On the entry: Sound[W]right: UFS student tone and voice project, the IABC Gold Quill evaluators said: “This entry shows innovation, collaboration, persistence, generosity and strategic intent. They have accomplished much within a very limited budget, to the benefit of both the university and its students.”

“The Gold Quill Awards programme celebrates business communication’s best practices and the value professional, strategic communication programmes bring to an organisation’s bottom line, its brand and its reputation,” said Lynn Barter, ABC, MC, chair of the IABC awards committee. “Each entry is evaluated on its own merits against IABC’s Global Standard of excellence in communication. Winning a Gold Quill recognises exceptional work, innovation and creativity.

Taking communication to the next level
“Gold Quill winners represent a global community executing their responsibilities ethically and to the highest standards of the profession. These exemplary practitioners deliver high impact results for their organisations and clients, taking communication to the next level.”

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