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11 February 2021 Photo UFS photo archive
The National Control Laboratory for Biological Products (NCL) Building.

There can be no compromise when it comes to the quality of medicines made available to the public.

The UFS-based National Control Laboratory for Biological Products (NCL) is a full member of the international WHO-National Control Laboratory Network for Biologicals and one of 12 laboratories worldwide contracted to perform vaccine testing for the World Health Organisation (WHO). The NCL is also 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 the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

In its role as a 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. 

International testing standards

The laboratory received the status of a pharmaceutical testing laboratory after the South African Accreditation System (SANAS) endorsed its quality-management systems as of a high standard according to the International Standards Organisation’s requirements.

With its international testing standards, the NCL must ensure that all its operations – 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.

The laboratory has all the quality systems in place to ensure high-quality test results. The certificate of Good Manufacturing Compliance received in 2019 indicates that laboratory testing is on the expected level for any pharmaceutical testing laboratory and manufacturer. This certification is very strict and means that the NCL complies with exceptionally strict standards for pharmaceutical labs anywhere in the world. The certification offers the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the WHO, and other national control laboratories around the world the confidence that the test results from the NCL can be trusted.

Licensed as pharmaceutical manufacturer

The laboratory is also licensed as a pharmaceutical manufacturer. Although the lab does not manufacture, it needs 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.

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