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20 August 2020 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Barend Nagel
Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of the Free State (UFS), has been appointed as the chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicines for COVID-19.

Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of the Free State (UFS), will lead Africa’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with his appointment as chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicines for COVID-19.

Prof Matsabisa has been chosen over 25 other experts from 27 African countries to head this expert committee tasked with setting up research and clinical trials for COVID-19 and beyond. The committee is also supported by the African Union (AU), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – Africa), and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).

This committee was established by the WHO and the Africa CDC on 22 July with the aim of providing independent scientific advice and support to countries on the safety, efficacy, and quality of traditional medicine therapies. It is also an effort to enhance research and development of traditional medicines for COVID-19 in Africa.

Looking forward

“This is a huge continental and global responsibility being laid on my shoulders as a chairperson.  I have to keep the committee together and ensure that it delivers on its set mandate and terms of reference.  I need to ensure that the committee helps the continent and region to get the scientific and legislative aspects on traditional medicine development on track.”  

“I have taken this position and responsibility, knowing quite well what it entails. I want to do this for the continent and for the sake of good science of all traditional healers and consumers of traditional medicines on the continent and beyond,” says Prof Matsabisa.

According to Prof Matsabisa, he is looking forward to working with a team of dedicated experts from 27 countries in the African region, and being of help to countries that need assistance with clinical trials, including preclinical work to move to clinical research.

Prof Matsabisa says he is also looking forward to countries asking South Africa to be part of their multi-centre studies in clinical trials for traditional medicines, and to help set up clinical trial teams that include Western-trained clinicians to get into traditional medicine studies. 

The work of the committee

According to Prof Matsabisa, his new position took effect the same day as his appointment and will run as long as COVID-19 is part of our daily lives and even beyond. It entails supporting member states to implement the WHO master plan for clinical trial protocols in order to generate credible data for COVID-19 results, based on traditional medicines. The committee will also coordinate support to member states in the African region to collaborate on clinical trials of traditional medicine-based therapies – elevating standards by pooling expertise in multicentre studies, as well as complying with GCP and good participatory practice guidelines for trials of emerging and re-emerging pathogens.
“The committee will also advise on strengthening the capacity of national medicine regulatory authorities to accelerate the issuance of marketing authorisations for traditional medicine products that have been well researched for safety, efficacy, and quality, as well as to expedite the approval of clinical trials on traditional medicines. This will help to meet the national registration criteria and the WHO norms and standards of quality, safety, and efficacy for the management of COVID-19 and others.”

“It will also provide independent scientific advice to the WHO and other partners regarding policies, strategies, and plans for integrating traditional medicines into COVID-19 responses and health systems,” explains Prof Matsabisa. 

Aiming for the top spot 

Prof Matsabisa has been described as having the third highest research output – something he is not satisfied with. 
“I was disappointed that only one point separated me from the second place. I will push for first place as this is my ultimate aim. My motivation for this is simple – I like what I am doing, I do not take it as a job but do it because I love research.”  

“I always like to tell students that we should be proud to one day see products in the shops that we can relate to and to which we have contributed or that we have made.   This is what drives me and my staff.  I have a beautiful team of students, staff, and postdoctoral fellows who share my vision of research.  We all have a shared vision and strive to be relevant at all times in science research, development, and teaching.”

• Prof Matsabisa was recently part of a national conference with the theme: Harnessing science, technology, and innovation in response to COVID-19: A national and international effort. The conference was hosted by Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, with Pres Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Prof Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, in attendance. 

News Archive

Literacy Month fosters the love of reading
2017-09-19

Description: Literacy Month fosters the love of reading Tags: Literacy Month fosters the love of reading 

Vutivi Baloyi author of Keep Hoping with Neo Kgoroba
one of the co-authors of In Our Own Words.


Literacy Month is celebrated in September each year at the University of the Free State (UFS) with various activities that are academic and community related and aim to join different departments in collaborative efforts to carry forward an awareness of literacy and the joy of reading among learners. The UFS Sasol Library lined up a series of events to celebrate the month, one of them being the launch of two books on 14 September 2017.

Vutivi Baloyi is a UFS student who wrote a collection of poems at the age of 17 which were recently published in a book called Keep Hoping. The book was launched alongside In Our Own Words, a collection of narratives written by UFS students about university life and transitioning from township high schools to a different culture, society and community, and the challenges with which they are faced.

In their own words, they share incredible experiences
The launch was attended by learners from Christian Liphoko High School in Thaba Nchu as well as Moroka High School and others. The compilation of narratives by UFS students was done under the auspices of Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom through the Enabling Success project in the Centre for Research in Higher Education. Prof Wilson-Strydom said the project, supported by the National Research Foundation, was a profound way of empowering students by bringing out the value of the stories of their life on campus as they saw them, with each student writing a chapter on a specific theme.

Students as change agents and community builders
The student authors spoke to their audience from the heart, sharing words of advice, especially to younger learners who are still in high school. This has sparked a desire for the beginning of collaborative programmes between the individual university students and high school learners who hail from Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu, highlighting the need for mentorship, life skills, academic improvement and an opportunity to give back. 

The event is also part of the ongoing Launch Your Own Book project that has grown in 2017 at the UFS Library under the leadership of Mr Marcus Maphile, Assistant Director: Library Marketing and Community Engagement. Literacy Month will be celebrated with more events in September such as a round-table discussion in collaboration with the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors Association of South Africa (ANSAFA) on 20 September 2017 at the library, to discuss developing authors and the role of ANSAFA. More activities will include outreach and community engagement, with a visit to Christian Liphoko High School in Thaba Nchu on 21 September 2017.

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