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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 Communication and Brand Management receives two prestigious international awards
2015-07-07

Lelanie de Wet, Lacea Loader and Leonie Bolleurs

The Department of Communication and Brand Management at the University of the Free State (UFS) received two of the six Gold Quill Awards – that were awarded to South African companies and institutions - at the International Association of Business Communicator’s (IABC) Excellence Gala ceremony in San Francisco, US on 15 June 2015.

The awards ceremony formed part of the 2015 IABC World Conference, which took place from 14-17 June 2015. The department received a Gold Quill Excellence Award for its social media campaign, UFS #FaceOfFacebook and a Gold Quill Merit Award for the B Safe Take Action campaign.

From the 15 countries that entered, a total of 120 Gold Quill Excellence awards and 189 Gold Quill Merit awards were awarded. Other South African award winners included Barclays Africa Group Limited, Mediclinic and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

This is the second year in a row that the UFS has been recognised by the IABC for its communication projects. In 2014, the department was awarded the Jake Wittmer Research Award for a Stakeholder Perception Audit conducted in February 2014. The audit was considered – by the IABC - as one of the best breakthrough strategies used by a university to measure the perceptions of its stakeholders.This made the UFS the first tertiary institution in Africa to receive the research award. The stakeholder perception audit also received an Africa Gold Quill in 2014.

"Being recognised by a global association such as the IABC for the second time, is a great honour and I am very proud of what my colleagues have achieved by entering the two campaigns. Winning the awards is a true indication of what can be done when a team of expert communicators is committed towards engaging their target audiences with campaigns that speak of quality and innovation. The fact that the UFS is one of only two tertiary education institutions in the country to receive these prestigious awards, makes it even more special," said Lacea Loader, Director: Communication and Brand Management at the UFS.

IABC World and Africa conferences 2015 

The IABC is a global membership association with a network of 12 000 members in more than 80 countries, representing many of the Global Fortune 500 companies. It serves professionals in the field of business communication, bringing together the profession’s collective disciplines.

With the theme: Changing landscape: Informing the future, the 2015 world conference was attended by over 1 200 delegates from across the world. Delegates were offered an opportunity for learning, discovering, and connecting. Loader also made a presentation entitled ‘Award-winning measurement endorses sound reputation management strategy’ at the world conference.

The department will also be receiving two Africa Gold Quill Awards from the Africa chapter of the IABC for the same campaigns on 30 July 2015 in Johannesburg.

UFS #FaceOfFacebook Campaign

The university received a Gold Quill Excellence Award for its social media campaign, UFS #FaceOfFacebook. This initiative originated in the university’s commitment to its Human Project, which sets the standard for good behaviour and care.

Lelanie de Wet, Manager: Social Media and Website Content and project leader of UFS #FaceOfFacebook, said the project was born from the need to communicate with students. Thus a virtual friend, #FaceOfFacebook, was created. “Yearly auditions are being held to choose the new face representing the UFS on Facebook. Short video clips of the #FaceOfFacebook – whether it is attending events or communicating important messages - are posted on the UFS Facebook page. The successful candidate holds the title #FaceOfFacebook for 12 months.

“When I look at a campaign such as #FaceOfFacebook, from the time it took its first tentative steps in 2013, and see how it inspired staff and students alike, my heart swells with pride. Often you can see the impact you have made only in retrospect. The ripples you send into the world will inevitably create waves,” she said.

B Safe Take Action Campaign

The B Safe Take Action campaign of the university received a Gold Quill Merit award from the IABC.

The campaign was activated in September 2013. “It targeted on- and off-campus students and staff, aiming to create social ownership of personal safety, and to raise awareness of the safety measures put in place by the university,” said Leonie Bolleurs, Manager: Internal Communication and project manager of the campaign.

The campaign looked at a number of safety aspects, focusing not only on crime but also on being safe from road accidents and stress/burnout.

It is the second time this year that the BSafe campaign has been recognised for its innovative strategy. Earlier this year it received a PRISM Award (Gold) from the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA). The annual PRISM Awards are about recognising and celebrating great public relations campaigns.

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