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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

Prof Frederick Fourie to step down as UFS rector
2008-09-08

“It is with sadness that I hereby announce my intention to step down as rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS) in the 4th quarter of this year.

Obviously this decision has not been taken lightly. After careful consideration I am, however, convinced that this is as far as I can take the UFS as vice-chancellor and rector. This flows primarily from the exhausting times that I have experienced during the past nine years, first as vice-rector (since 1999) and then as rector (since 2003), in managing and implementing several complex strategic projects.

The challenges and complexities of continuous change management at a higher education institution, and specifically the demands of further dynamic development and transformation at the UFS, demand enormous amounts of emotional energy and drive. For me the stress due to, especially, the political divisions and tensions in the UFS Council and the broader university community during the past year has been extremely draining. The broader institution and its people also show signs of trauma.

I think it is time for new and fresh leadership, especially in the light of the transformation challenges of the UFS.

I have thus decided to step down in the interest of transformation and the further dynamic development of the UFS.

Having been on sabbatical leave since May, I will not return to take up my post. I will remain on leave until my official date of retirement from office. (The exact date must still be determined.)

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been at the helm of the UFS and to help the institution cross several bridges. During the past nine years I have been privileged to lead large strategic projects together with many dedicated and talented UFS colleagues. It has been a wonderful experience of thinking and working together in order to elevate the functioning of the University to new levels in several key areas.

One of the most important projects was the financial turnaround strategy of 2000-2005, which took the UFS from a financial crisis to a situation where currently it annually has almost R100 million of discretionary funding available to spend on strategic projects, and where staff remuneration and promotion opportunities have increased dramatically since 2000. In this period the UFS has also grown from approximately 10 000 students to more than 27 000 in 2008.

A second was the strategy to invest strongly in the academic core and notably research, research capacity and research apparatus. Since 2003 research outputs have increased by approximately 50% - a significant accomplishment of our researchers and faculties. In conjunction with this, the launch of the six strategic academic clusters (focus areas) should create the basis for the continued growth in the national and international stature of the UFS in future. The development of the national leadership role of the UFS with regard to community service also was a special and successful project.

A third large strategic project was the progress with regard to diversity, the balanced multilingualism policy in the academe as well as the administration, the employment equity plan, the UFS transformation plan and especially the institutional charter – which could lay the foundation for a university where one and all can experience a true sense of belonging amidst diversity. These have been important steps that we can feel proud of (although much work obviously remains with regard to non-racialism and also non-sexism).

As far as residences are concerned, it was historically significant that this time, in contrast to 1997/8, the UFS succeeded in crossing the bridge of diversity and integration in residences – with due regard to the difficulties we faced. Hopefully this will considerably ease the task of my successor and her/his management team in managing diversity and in pursuing best practice transformation.

A fourth large project was the large-scale upgrading and development of infrastructure, academic buildings and facilities as well as support service facilities, student facilities and pedestrian walkways. The objective was a campus of the highest quality and aesthetics to effect a lasting improvement in their work- and living environment for staff and students. Indeed, the UFS Main Campus today is seen as an example of sensitive and high quality campus planning.

Other initiatives which haven’t borne fruit yet are, for example, those with regard to entrepreneurial activities, sport development and sport business development, and the possible establishment of an engineering programme or faculty at the UFS.

On the whole the most important thing for me has been the progress in establishing a deep commitment to quality and equity/fairness and in boosting the national and international profile of the UFS as a high quality progressive university. Of course, justice, equity and quality intrinsically are challenges which require daily dedication to make it an ingrained habit.

I wish to thank all those people with whom I could work during the past years in tackling large and complex challenges with mutual loyalty, shared wisdom and effort – from the Financial Turnaround Team to the Exco, the Executive Management, the Faculties, the Senate, support service divisions, the University Council and several committees and task teams”.

Frederick C.v.N. Fourie
Rector and Vice-Chancellor
University of the Free State

Prof Frederick Fourie has been with the UFS since 1976. After obtaining a PhD in Economics from Harvard he was appointed professor at the age of 29 in 1982, head of the Department of Economics in 1992, Distinguished Professor in 1998, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences in 1997, Vice-rector: Academic in 1999 and vice-chancellor in 2003.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
8 September 2008
 

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