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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

Graduation ceremony awaited with great excitement
2011-06-22

Everything is running according to plan on the Bloemfontein Campus of our university for the graduation ceremony of Ms Oprah Winfrey, which is taking place in the Callie Human Centre today, 24 June 2011. 

The graduation ceremony, during which an Honorary Doctorate in Education will be conferred upon Ms Winfrey, promises to be something special. Measured against the smooth course of the preparations, the speed at which the tickets were obtained and the continuous interest amongst UFS staff and students, as well as members of the public, this promises to be a real 2011 highlight for all who are going to attend the event. 

Strict safety and security measures shall be enforced and therefore, ticket holders are requested to make sure that they arrive early on the Bloemfontein Campus. 

The UFS is aware of the fact that tickets are sold illegally at shopping centres in Bloemfontein. Computicket equipment shall be used on the premises tomorrow to ensure that only persons who have original tickets in their possession are admitted. People found to be in possession of forged tickets tomorrow shall be prosecuted. 

The doors of the Callie Human Centre shall open at 13:00 on Friday for ticket holders and shall be closed strictly at 14:00. For safety and security reasons, nobody shall be allowed to enter or leave the building after the doors were closed. 

Although the entrance gates to the Bloemfontein Campus shall not be closed, certain streets on the campus will be closed for some time today (23 June 2011) and the whole of Friday (24 June 2011). More information about this is available at www.ufs.ac.za 

Clear signs, as well as voluntary staff, shall guide parking visitors to their parking spaces. The volunteers were selected after staff of all three campuses offered their assistance for the day. 

Amongst the 4 500 guests attending the graduation ceremony are various well-known personalities and dignitaries, alumni, learners and other stakeholders of the university. Good reaction has also been received from the local, national and international media. 

The programme in the Callie Human Centre is as follows: 

13:00 Doors open
14:00 Doors close
14:30 Opening performances
15:30 Graduation ceremony
16:00 Ms. Winfrey’s speech and question and answer session with students
18:00 Programme ends.
 

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