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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

Chemistry gets substantial grants
2013-06-10

 

At the experimental setup of the high temperature reduction oven for research in heterogeneous catalysis are, front from left: Maretha Serdyn (MNS Cluster prestige PhD bursar), Nceba Magqi (Sasol employee busy with his MSc in Chemistry) and Dr Alice Brink (Formal MNS Cluster postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry); back Profs Jannie Swarts (Head: Physical Chemistry), André Roodt, and Ben Bezuidenhoudt (Sasol Professor in Organic and Process Chemistry).
10 June 2013

Three research groups in the Department of Chemistry received substantial grants to the value of R4,55 million. The funding includes bursaries for students and post-doctoral fellows, mobility grants, running costs and equipment support, as well as dedicated funds for two young scientists in the UFS Prestige Scholar Programme, Drs Lizette Erasmus and Alice Brink.

The funding comes from Sasol, the THRIP programme of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and PetLabs Pharmaceuticals for the overarching thrust in Organic Synthesis, Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Catalysis. The programme has a broad focuse on different fundamental and applied aspects of process chemistry. Research groups of Profs Andreas Roodt (Inorganic), Jannie Swarts (Physical) and Ben Bezuidenhoudt (Organic / Process), principal members of the focus area of (Green) Petrochemicals in the Materials and Nanosciences Strategic Research Cluster (MNS Cluster) will benefit from the grant.

This funding was granted based on the continued and high-level outputs by the groups, which resulted in more than 40 papers featuring in international chemistry publications in merely the past year. A few papers also appeared in the top experimental inorganic chemistry journal from the American Chemical Society, Inorganic Chemistry. These high-impact papers address important issues in catalysis under the UFS Material and Nanosciences Research Cluster initiative, as well as other aspects of fundamental chemistry, but with an applied approach and focus.

Prof Andreas Roodt, Distinguished Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry, said the grants will enable the three research groups to move forward in their respective research areas associated with petrochemicals and other projects, and enable additional students in the department to benefit from it. It will also ensure that these groups can continue and maintain their research on different molecular and nano-scale materials. Current experiments include conversions under extremely high gas pressures (typical 100 times that in motor car tyres). This takes place at the molecular level and at preselected nano-surfaces, to convert cheaper feed-stream starting materials into higher value-added products for use as special additives in gasoline and other speciality chemicals.

The funding support forms part of the Hub-and-Spoke initiative at Sasol under which certain universities and specifically the UFS Department of Chemistry have been identified for strategic support for research and development. The department and the UFS gratefully acknowledge this continued and generous support from all parties concerned.

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