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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 Winter Graduation Ceremony
2012-06-18

UFS awards record number of master’s degrees and doctorates

The University of the Free State (UFS) celebrated an increase in postgraduate successes with a record number of master’s degrees and doctorates that were awarded during the winter graduation ceremony at the Bloemfontein campus on Thursday 14 June 2012.

A total of 481 master’s degrees and 82 doctorates were awarded in two ceremonies in the Callie Human Centre on the Bloemfontein Campus. This is the most postgraduate qualifications to be awarded at a single graduation ceremony.

DiMTEC has reason to celebrate

Dr Andries Jordaan (second from right) with some of the people who received their master's degrees. From the left are Kehinde Balogun, the couple Olive Chisola-Darris en Clement West Darris, and the couple Everson Ndlovu en Patience Sibongile Ndlovu.
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar
18 June 2012

DiMTEC had reason to celebrate at the winter graduation ceremony. The Disaster Management Training and Education Centre for Africa delivered a healthy crop of 32 master’s degrees and one doctorate.

This was the most master’s degrees that the centre has been awarded at one opportunity. The doctorate, however, was not at DiMTEC – Andries Jordaan, the director of the centre, obtained his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economy.

It was also the first time that two couples received their master’s degrees at the centre at the same time.

Speaking at the event, Dr Jordaan said former students of the centre were using their expertise worldwide. Some of them are in senior positions at the United Nations, in African countries, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. DiMTEC’s students hail from 17 African countries, including French-speaking countries.

“I am proud that we have a footprint right across Africa,” he said.

Three travel all the way from Europe for their MBAs

Smiles on an important day. From the left are: Kasina Baker, Friederike Hackelberg, and Johanna Kössler and her parents and sister.
Photo: Stephen Collett
18 June 2012
No distance, time or money could prevent three MBA graduates from Europe from attending the winter graduation ceremony in Bloemfontein. Two of them were exchange students who were so captivated by the university and the country that they undertook their MBA studies at the Business School.

Friederike Hackelberg of Bremen, Germany, was an exchange student in 2008 and extended her stay to do an MBA. Johanna Kössler of Bolzano, Italy, was also an exchange student who succumbed to the charms of the UFS and South Africa. She brought her parents, George and Nannie, and her sister, Magdalena, with her to attend the graduation ceremony.

Kasina Baker of Warsaw, Poland, began her studies while her husband was working in Kenya. She wanted to study at a quality institution and thus chose the UFS's Business School.

Jessica gets three prestigious medals

Jessica Potgieter (right) was the first student in almost three decades to receive three prestigious medals at the Winter Graduation Ceremony. She received the Dean's medal as best Master's student in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, the Senate Medal as best Master's student at the university and the Award for Scientific Achievement by the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. She is seen here with her mother, Mrs Ilse van Rhyn, and Dr Khotso Mokhele, Chancellor.
Photo: Johan Roux
18 June 2012
Three daughters, three degrees for proud Kovsie mom
Liezel Alsemgeest and Adri Kotzé.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs
18 June 2012

Adri Kotzé, Faculty Manager in the Faculty of Law, is a very proud parent. In the course of one year, all three her daughters will receive degrees from the University of the Free State (UFS). First in line is the eldest, who received her Ph.D. in Business Management at the Winter Graduation Ceremony.

Liezel is a lecturer in the Department of Business Management at the UFS, where she lectures, publishes and hopes to further her research in finance. “I enjoy working at the university because you have the freedom to do your own thing and focus on whatever you like,” she says.

The title of Liezel’s thesis is Customers’ perception of business units within an agricultural business in South Africa. Her focus is on the subjects of customer satisfaction and financial management, with a specific focus on the management of agricultural businesses.

Middle sister Corné will be graduating with a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in December, while the youngest, Adéle, will receive her B.A. in Media Studies and Journalism at the Autumn Graduation Ceremony in 2013.

“I am very proud of all three my daughters,” says Adri.

Sasolburg minister receives Dean's Medal for best master's degree in Theology
Rev. Frans Redelinghuys.
18 June 2012

Rev. Frans Redelinghuys of the Reformed Church in Sasolburg received his master’s degree in Theology at the University of the Free State’s Winter Graduation Ceremony. Rev. Redelinghuys was also awarded the Dean’s Medal as the best master’s degree student in the Faculty of Theology.

The focus of his dissertation is Spirituality. “My lecturers are all people who practice what they preach and they have shared their knowledge with me.,” he says.

“My studies also contributed to my personal development,” says Rev. Redelinghuys.

Student from the Netherlands receives degree at UFS Winter Graduation Ceremony

Deborah Van den Bosch-Heij.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs
18 June 2012

Deborah Van den Bosch-Heij from the Netherlands was awarded a Ph.D. at the Winter Graduation Ceremony by the Faculty of Theology of the University of the Free State (UFS). Her thesis, Spirit and healing in Africa: A reformed pneumatological perspective, is an interdisciplinary investigation of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and healing in Southern Africa. The research addresses the need for a reviewed and contextually reformed approached to healing.

Deborah started her career as a minister at the Valkenburg Congregation of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands in 2001. She was appointed by the missionary department of her church to lecture at the Justo Mwale Theological University College in Lusaka, Zambia in 2005. It was here that she decided on the topic of her thesis. Prof. Rian Venter from the Department of Systematic Theology at the UFS, who is also involved at the Justo Mwale College, is Deborah’s promoter and assisted her in her studies whilst she was in the Netherlands. It was also Prof. Venter who made Deborah aware of the importance of interdisciplinary research.

Well-known judge's granddaughter receives degree

Judge Joos Hefer and Annelie de Man.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Annelie de Man, a law researcher at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein received her master’s degree at the Winter Graduation Ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS). She is Judge Joos Hefer’s granddaughter. Annelie was also awarded the Dean’s Medal as the best master’s degree student in the Faculty of Law.

“Today is one of the biggest highlights in my career,” says Annelie, who received exposure to the field of law from a young age.

In September, she will be leaving for Italy to study for a master’s degree in European Human Rights at the European Inter University.

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