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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

Official opening ceremony of the UFS Qwaqwa Campus
2006-02-15

Official opening ceremony of the UFS Qwaqwa Campus
11th February 2006 – Multipurpose Hall

Opening Speech:
Prof. Peter A. Mbati
Campus Principal

Successfully rising to the challenges of incorporations and mergers – developing a vibrant and academically stimulating satellite campus of the University of the Free State.

Thank you Mr. Program Director and good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I wish to once again welcome all of you to the official opening ceremony of the University of the Free State QQ campus.  Thank you for taking time to share with us an important date in our campus academic calendar.  I bring you greetings from our Rector and Vice Chancellor Prof. Frederick Fourie.

During such occasions we try and reflect on important matters that have affected us as an institution in the preceding year, commit ourselves to specific objectives for the current year, while planning for the proceeding year.

Today I shall be talking on Successfully rising to the challenges of incorporations and mergers – developing a vibrant and academically stimulating satellite campus of the University of the Free State’.

SRC inauguration
I would like to congratulate the SRC President and the entire SRC leadership for being elected into important positions of student leadership and authority. 

As a university we are proud of the quality of our student leadership on the Qwaqwa campus.  I am confident that you young leaders will rise to the challenges of your office and discharge your duties with diligence and without fear or favour.  That you will rise above your party affiliations and provide effective leadership to the entire student body on campus.
                              
Leadership is complex and requires you to be objective, just and fair in your approach to the many challenges that you will encounter.  You will be judged not by the populist decision that you take when confronted with difficult choices, but rather, on the wisdom that you exercise in reaching consensus in decision making processes.

The era when management and student leadership viewed each other with suspicion and as adversaries is long gone.  Management, academic and administrative staff, parents and students must have common agendas in as far the  quality growth and development of our university is concerned and to strive towards academic excellence.  I leave the challenge to you students, and more so to the inaugurated student leaders to define your agenda in achieving this noble objective.  I trust that you will make the right choices.

Brief history of incorporation
On the recommendations of the National Working Group of Higher Education, the Qwaqwa Campus of the then University of the North was incorporated into the University of the Free State on 1st January 2003.  We suddenly had to move from a campus that was originally semi-autonomous and with its own culture developed over almost 20 years, into a campus that had to operate as a fully integrated campus of the UFS, a 100 year old institution with its distinct culture.

Following incorporation, we not only had to continue with our core business of teaching, learning, research and community service, but we also had to engage in other important aspects such as exploring the most appropriate models of governance for the campus, encouraging dialogue and interactions at all levels between personnel at the different campuses with a view to developing trust between colleagues. And with the added dimensions such as participation in the transformation task team we in effect are at the fore front of developing a new institutional culture at the UFS and a truly South African University.

UFS Strategic objectives
The strategic and transformation priorities of the University of the Free State for 2006 – 2008 as approved by the Executive Management at its retreat in January 2006 are:

  • Quality and Excellence
  • Equity, diversity and redress
  • Financial sustainability
  • Regional co-operation and engagement

Central to this priority is the integration of the Qwaqwa campus as a valuable constituent part of the UFS, and the strategic reconfiguration of the campus in order that the UFS can play a meaningful role in regional engagement and development.

  • National leadership

The five strategic objectives cannot be viewed in isolation and run simultaneously and in concert with each other. 

The Question must therefore be what we on the QQ campus, staff and students, parents and our broader community are willing to do to achieve these strategic objectives. The reconfiguration and strategic planning of this campus, and therefore its success, must be a collaborative effort between colleagues at QQ and on the main campus.  We must all be ready to work together, to plan together, to shoulder responsibilities together and sometimes, to share the pain and disappointments together. 

The second question must therefore be: are we prepared to go that extra mile for our campus to ensure that we claim our rightful stake within the ranks of well respected academic institutions of higher learning in this country?  At this point in its history this campus requires committed men and women from across the cultural spectrum who appreciate the challenges ahead of us and who are ready to give of their best and to constructively engage at all levels to make this dream a reality.  Because this dream is possible and this dream will be realized!

Quality and Excellence (1st strategic objective)

As mentioned by the Rector in his speech at the official opening ceremony of the university on the main campus on Friday 3rd February, the university will in 2006 pay extra attention to Quality and Excellence.  This is informed by the Higher Education Quality Committee’s (HEQC) institutional audit which is scheduled to take place this year.  Our university as well as several other HEI’s will be subjected to this audit.  This will call for a lot of hard work on your part in preparation for a successful audit and in this regard therefore I request for your cooperation.

As a further step in confirming our commitment to quality and excellence, we have simultaneously introduced on the QQ campus and the main campus workshops on performance management systems to a cohort group.  This will be expanded in 2006 to a wider group of managers on the QQ campus to include among others all Program Heads and Subject Heads. PMS is an invaluable tool for fair, effective and efficient management of a very important resource on campus – the human resource.  Benefits of PMS include among others:

  • Instilling and enriching a culture of performance management (quality assurance) as an integral part of the day to day functioning of staff at the campus
  • Improving staff performance through mentoring, development and training

Tri campus project
One of the more important projects that we as a university undertook in 2005 was the Tri Campus Project which was coordinated by the Free State Higher Education Consortium (FSHEC) through Niel Butcher and Associates consultants.

The Tri-Campus project focused on the strategic planning for higher education campuses in the Free State that have been incorporated with UFS and CUT during the reshaping of the South African higher education landscape. The Bloemfontein Vista campus and the Qwaqwa campus of the University of the North were incorporated with the UFS, and the Welkom Vista campus with the CUT.

The planning process involved a range of research and consultation activities during the course of 2005. This included:

  • Conducting situational analyses of the Qwaqwa campus during which staff and students were widely consulted;
  • Consulting with the campus and with a range of stakeholders in the sub-region
  • Review of the Free State Provincial Growth and Development Strategy and Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) of the regions and other research of relevance to the sub-regions, province and country.

An operational framework for the reconfiguration of the campus with a range of possible Program Qualification Mixes has been produced.  In December 2005, the Rector, the Vice Rector Academic Planning Prof. Magda Fourie and I discussed this document with senior members of the DoE in Pretoria, and we will soon be meeting with the National Minister of Education Me Naledi Pandor for her guidance and to seek support in the further refinement of the document and subsequent implementation.

Recapitalization
This year a further R 6 M has been budgeted for recapitalization.  In about two weeks time the third of phase of renovations on campus will commence and attention will be given to the administration building, the humanities and the outstanding work in the lecture hall complex.  There- after the library, sciences and education buildings will follow.  As you will recall a substantial portion of the R 8.4 million in 2005 was used to upgrade the student residences and the lecture hall complex.

I am certain that the renovations and upgrading of our infrastructure and physical facilities including landscaping will create an enabling environment for you to enjoy your work and studies on this campus.

Renovations come with some measure of inconveniences and I therefore wish to request for your patience and support during this period.

Closing remarks
There is a heightened spirit of optimism on what the future holds for this campus.  This is evident when I talk to a large cross section of staff and students of this campus – and I therefore invite all of you to come and be partners with us on this journey of optimism and hope of what the future holds for the UFS – QQ campus.

Thank you and God bless!

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