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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

Stained glass artist’s hard work recognised
2016-07-13

Description: Bongani Njalo Tags: Bongani Njalo

Bongani Njalo, project co-ordinator for the
Program for Innovation in Artform Development,
was recognised as one of the 200 Young
South Africans by the Mail & Guardian category
for the year 2016.
Photo: Siobhan Canavan

“I’ve used each highlight of my career as a benchmark for greater accomplishments.”

These are the words of Bongani Njalo, who was selected as one of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans together with Adv Loyiso Makapela, Junior Lecturer at the University of the Free State (UFS) Law Faculty. Njalo was recognised in the Arts and Culture category for his outstanding contribution to the art scene.

Getting to know the artist

The fine art graduate has worked on different art projects in several cities, and is currently the project co-ordinator for the Program for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD). PIAD is a programme developed by the UFS and the Vrystaat Arts Festival, which focuses on how technology, interdisciplinary and experimental arts can connect with and impact on communities.

Aspiring artist on the move

Soon, this young artist will be on the move again, as he has been accepted into the Internal Leadership Program in Visual Arts Management at Deusto Business School, taking place in Bilbao in Spain in November and in New York next March.

When asked about the nomination, Njalo simply said: “To be honest with you, I don’t feel any differently whatsoever. I now feel I have more work I’d like to do.”

A man of many talents

Not only was Njalo an intern at the Mandela Bay Development Agency where he compiled the book entitled Art & Artists of the Eastern Cape, but he also curated the Eastern Cape Artists Exhibition at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2011.

In 2012, Njalo was invited to curate a group exhibition, Beehive, for the Cape Town International Month of Photography Festival, and in 2014 he won the David Koloane Mentorship Award.

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