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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

Multidisciplinary conference on TB control
2003-09-22

Theme: Tuberculosis control: a multidisciplinary approach to research, policy and practice Venue: CR Swart Auditorium, University of the Free State Campus, Bloemfontein Date: 11 and 12 November 2003 Time: 11 November, 19:00-20:30 AND 12 November 08:30-17:00

Tuesday, 11 November - 19:00-20:30 (registration from 18:30) and Wednesday, 12 November - 08:30-17:00 (registration from 07:30)

The Honourable MEC for Health in the Free State will officially open the Conference on the evening of 11 November, while Prof Frederick Fourie (Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State) will attend to the welcoming. In addition, Prof Françoise Portaels (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium) and Dr Refiloe Matji (National Department of Health, South Africa) will respectively present a global and a South African perspective on TB. The majority of the presentations will follow on 12 November.

Main thrust of Conference

The main thrust of the Conference is to disseminate both research results and policy/managerial matters relevant to TB and TB control, and to facilitate discourse among researchers and health policy makers/managers/practitioners in the field of TB control. Presenters of papers, as well as delegates are, therefore, drawn from both academic/research institutions, and from health service sectors involved in TB control in all provinces and in neighbouring countries.

Topics of presentations

A variety of topics will be dealt with during presentations, such as: New challenges in the global control of MDR-TB New strategies and policies on MDR-TB in South Africa A South African perspective on TB control A provincial perspective on implementing the national TB control policy

The role of the public district hospital in TB control Tuberculosis control through DOTS Case detection strategies

TB in children Hospital to clinic: is this the missing link? Patient compliance with DOT for TB Challenges for effective health communications in a multicultural context

The economics of TB Frequency of multiple infections with M. tuberculosis in pulmonary TB patients HIV/AIDS and TB, etc.

Speakers

Among the speakers will be Dr Victor Litlhakanyane (Head of Health: Free State); Prof Françoise Portaels and Dr Leen Rigouts (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium); Dr Reliloe Matji (Director: NTBC Programme); Ntsiki Jolingana (Director: HIV, AIDS, TB and Communicable Diseases, Free State) and Annatjie Peters (Free State TB Coordinator); Dr Karin Weyer (Medical Research Council); Profs Herman Meulemans, Diana De Graeve, Luc Pauwels and Christiane Timmerman (University of Anwerp, Belgium); Dr Lara Fairall (UCT Lung Institute, University of Cape Town); Prof Frikkie Booysen (Department of Economics, University of the Free State); Christo Heunis, Ega Janse van Rensburg-Bonthuyzen, Zacheus Matebesi and Kobus Meyer (CHSR&D); Dr Mary Ednington (School of Public Health, Wits); Dr Carmen Báez and Sabine Verkuijl (ISDS); Anneke Van der Spoel-Van Dijk (Medical Microbiology, University of the Free State).

Costs

There will be no registration fees. However, delegates are expected to arrange their own transport and accommodation, or arrange for sponsorships themselves.

Contact details in case of inquiries and confirmation:

Postal Address: The Director, CHSR&D, PO Box 339, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, 9300 Fax: 051 448 0370 Tel: 051 401 2181 OR 051 401 3256 E-mail: vrensh@mail.ufs.ac.za (Dingie van Rensburg) OR neljc@mail.ufs.ac.za (Ohna Nel)

PLEASE, CONFIRM YOUR ATTENDANCE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, BUT AT THE LATEST BEFORE 25 OCTOBER 2003 ? BY TELEPHONE, FAX OR E-MAIL.

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