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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

Breyten Breytenbach shares his words and philosophies
2013-03-05

 

Breyten Breytenbach
Photo: Johan Roux
02 March 2013

The Department of Philosophy at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently hosted Breyten Breytenbach as part of its Colloquium series.

In a packed Odeion theatre, Breytenbach shared his words and views relating to poetry and philosophy. The session was chaired by Prof Pieter Duvenhage from the Department of Philosophy, who noted the symbiotic relationship which exists between the two seemingly distinct disciplines.

Breytenbach is one of South Africa’s best-known literary sons, gaining worldwide recognition for his writings and poetry, as well as his political activism against the erstwhile Apartheid regime. He left the country in 1960 due to Apartheid and settled in Paris where his first collection of poetry was published in 1964. It was the beginning of a prizewinning literary career spanning multiple languages and decades.

He returned illegally in 1975 in order to agitate against the repressive National Party government, but was arrested, spending seven years in prison after being charged with terrorism.

The audience was treated to a reading from an unpublished work from Breytenbach, A letter to my daughter. The lengthy letter outlined Breytenbach's world views, his sense of the creative process, his philosophies and his takes on current and historical events.

A large part of the letter focused on the philosophical and emotional processes involved in writing.“Writing is the travelling of its own landscape; landscapes and rooms that may always have been there,” he said.

He noted that it’s not always an easy process, and that sometimes writers need to explore the abysses, which can be unnerving.

“In this regard it is important to know that emptiness exists,” he said.

He stressed his concern over some of the problems the country currently faces, especially the abuse of state institutions. He was especially worried about the abuse of power. He warned that “power has its own predatory identity,” often abused and misused by those who wield it.

Despite his misgivings, Breytenbach still retains his optimism for the country and its people. He remarked that the country and its many diverse cultures resembles a “fantastic patchwork blanket,” one that should be cherished and protected.

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