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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

Kovsie Netball team aims for first home final on Monday 12 October 2015
2015-10-09

Kovsies Netball has been unbeaten this year.

The University of the Free State (UFS) netball team  is hoping to continue its good performance in the Varsity Sport series against the North-West University on Monday 12 October 2015 at 19:00, in order to reach the finals for a third consecutive year.

The teams will meet in the Callie Human Centre on the Bloemfontein Campus for a follow-up of last year’s semi-final. Kovsies won that that game in Bloemfontein with a score of 51-45.

If the home team prevails, they will be hosting a final for the first time.

The Kovsies, who were unbeaten this year, and finished at the top of the log, were the champions in the first two seasons, but had to play away from home in the final against Pukke in 2013 and Tuks in 2014.

The last league match they lost against Pukke was in 2013. The score in Pretoria was 47-60 in favour of the Pukke.

Many of the clashes between the teams have been very close games. Last year, there was a 45-45 draw in Potchefstroom.

In the first round of 2015 between Kovsies and Pukke in Bloemfontein, the UFS won by 47-38.

In their final league match in Stellenbosch on Monday 5 October 2015, Kovsies won against Maties by 41-33, while the Pukke, who ended fourth on the log, defeated the Madibaz 65-32 in Potchefstroom.

In the other semi-final on Monday, Tukkies and Maties, second and third respectively on the log, will play against each other in Pretoria. This match will be broadcast live on a big screen in the Callie Human Centre on Monday.

The Kovsie captain, Karla Mostert, who will be playing for Bath in England next year, is currently ahead on votes for Player of the Series. Last year, she was also Player of the Series. Fans may vote for her on the Varsity Sport Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/varsitysportsSA.

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