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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

Staff, students, learners and the public opened their hearts during R5 coin-laying ceremony
2012-07-19

Photo: Sonia Small
18 July 2012

Amidst a festive atmosphere on the Red Square in front of the Main Building on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS), students, staff, learners and members of the public came together to make their contribution to stop hunger.

In celebration of former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the university collected money and food in the form of a coin-laying ceremony, the packing of food parcels, and a message delivered by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu in aid of the university’s No Student Hungry (NSH) campaign and Bloemfontein Child Welfare.

Representatives from schools in Bloemfontein donated their R5 coins, together with university staff, students, members of the public, and employees of Pick n Pay Hyper. Money collected at the coin-laying ceremony will be shared between NSH and Bloemfontein Child Welfare.

According to Ms Grace Jansen and Ms Carin Buys, patrons of NSH, the more than R42 000 that was collected will be donated to Bloemfontein Child Welfare in an effort by NSH to give back to the community. “We are impressed by the number of people who showed up and by the fact that people opened their hearts and pockets to give,” said Ms Buys.

Thirty employees of Pick n Pay Hyper in Bloemfontein were also present and packed 1 833 food parcels (equivalent to 11 000 meals). This forms part of a Pick n Pay initiative in cooperation with Stop Hunger Now that is being held countrywide today.

In total, 88 000 meals will be distributed in six cities in South Africa today. The 11 000 meals in the Free State have been donated to the university and according to Ms Jansen a social worker at the UFS will distribute it to other needy students. These are students who do not receive bursaries from NSH at the moment. Every food parcel contains rice, dried vegetables, soya, and vitamin and mineral enriched powder.

The university was honoured to have Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the speaker at the event. He attended a dialogue in the Series of Dialogue between Science and Society today at the university where he took part in a conversation with Profs. Mark Solms and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela as part of the Global Leadership Summit.

He made a special appearance at the university’s Nelson Mandela Day festivities. His message was simple but inspiring: “Everyone has, just like Madiba, the capacity to change lives. I hope there are people present who can say that they want to improve someone else’s life. You have the chance to make South Africa a country where no one goes to bed hungry. Help us to make South Africa a country where we have compassion for each other and care for each other”.

The UFS would like to thank the following schools for their contributions: 

Grey Kollege Primêre Skool
Grey Kollege
St Michael's School for Girls
Hoërskool Jim Fouché
Hoërskool Fichardtpark
Hoërskool Sentraal
Navalsig High School
HTS Louis Botha
Eunice High School 


 

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