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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

Two UFS architecture students won prestigious PG Bison 1.618 Competition
2017-10-26

 Description: Bison read more Tags: : Stephan Diedericks, Department of Architecture, Margaux Loubser, Kobus du Preez, Zack Wessels, PG Bison 1.168 Competition 

At the PG Bison 1.618 competition awards ceremony
in Rosebank, were from the left:
Camrin Plaatjes from the University of KwaZulu-Natal;
Stephan Diedericks, winner of the competition;
and Margaux Loubser,
the second-place winner. Both Stephan and
Margaux are studying Architecture at the UFS.
Photo: Supplied



Food that reaches its sell-by date in supermarkets is usually disposed of, but has not yet reached its best-before date.  What happens to this food?  According to Stephan Diedericks, the answer to this is for this food to be repurposed.

Not only does Stephan want to prevent the waste of food – in a world where food security is a challenge – but he also won the prestigious PG Bison 1.618 Competition with his entry in which he suggests that gourmet meals be prepared from food that has reached its sell-by date, and then be served in the Delta Recycletorium. 

Students introduced to park lands in urban areas
Diedericks is a student in the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State (UFS). Second-place winner in this competition was Margaux Loubser, also a UFS student. Another UFS student, Dehan Kassimatis, was a finalist. They received their awards at a ceremony in Rosebank, Johannesburg, earlier this month. 

The competition, now in its 24th year, was created to recognise the future interior and industrial designers, architects, and key decision-makers in the South African construction industry. It is known not only for the prestige it offers its winners, but also for the tradition-defying brief given to the students each year.

According to lecturers Kobus du Preez and Zak Wessels, in the Department of Architecture, the competition introduced the students to parklands in urban areas. He quotes the competition brief: “Rural to urban migration with the development of commercial and residential property elevates the importance of parklands within cities, in creating a refuge from the hustle of daily life.  These areas are leveraged to encourage healthier living, community interaction and environmental awareness.”

Learning experience more important than prizes
The site that was the focus of the competition is the Environmental Centre, Delta Park Heritage Precinct in Johannesburg. Students needed to transform this old building into a vibrant gastronomic restaurant. “The theme and style of the restaurant was for the student to choose,” said Du Preez. 

Loubser called her restaurant Rooted – a wholefood restaurant.  She was influenced by the geometries of the original Art Deco building. Rooted articulates and integrates the space between nature and the building.  Similar to an Art Deco painting or poster, the landscape is abstracted into terraces which are used to grow vegetables organically.  Vertical green screens soften the divide between the building and its surroundings and it provides shade.

“Our students took their clues from the existing environment and integrated it with a single idea, an abstract concept, which impressed the judges,” Du Preez said. 

Although this is a competition that is well reported in the industry press, Du Preez and Wessels agree that the learning experience for students is much more important than winning the contest. The competition’s brief aligned well with the Department of Architecture’s learning content with its urban focus.

Jacques Steyn, a UFS architecture student, came third in the competition in 2015.

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