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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

Miss World 2014 is a Kovsie
2014-12-14

Photo: Netwerk 24

The management, staff and students of the University of the Free State (UFS) are delighted with the naming of Rolene Strauss, third-year MB ChB student in the School of Medicine, as Miss World 2014.

Rolene was crowned as Miss World 2014 in London, United Kingdom, earlier this evening. The last time a South African was crowned Miss World was in 1974, when Anneline Kriel walked away with the title. Before her, Penny Coelen was crowned Miss World in 1958.

“Rolene represents the best of South Africa - a deep commitment to education and a profound compassion for human beings. Since the first day I met her as a new first-year medical student, I was aware of somebody special, a young woman from a rural area who carried herself with so much grace and confidence. She is truly without prejudice towards any human being and this has made her one of my allies in building the Human Project of the University of the Free State,” says Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.

“I was not at all surprised that she chose as her beauty-with-a-purpose project the task of keeping young girls in school; this is who she is, and if you observe her dedication to her medical studies, you see someone for whom studies and service are not the add-on obligations of the Ms World Pageant; it is who she is in real life,” he says.

“Rolene has proven herself to be a dedicated, hard-working and enthusiastic young woman. These are qualities which will make her an equally exceptional Miss World,” says Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

According to Prof Van Zyl, Rolene interrupted her medical studies when she competed in the Miss South Africa pageant. “We are extremely proud of Rolene and will definitely welcome her back after her year as Miss World. She is an inspiration to us all,” he says.

According to Mosa Leteane, President of the UFS Student Representative Council (SRC), the entire student community is elated about Rolene’s crowning. “We know that she will continue to do great on her new journey. Her passion for people and kind spirit are some of the many beautiful traits that continue to make her an exemplary fellow Kovsie. We would like to congratulate her and wish all the best. She has really made us extremely proud,” says Leteane.

 

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