Innovative vaccines and entrepreneurial spirit: Profiling Dr. Sibongile Gumbi

Dr Sibongile Gumbi

Dr Sibongile Gumbi is the Founder and CEO of iVac Biotherapeutics, a vaccine manufacturing startup. She holds a PhD in Pharmacology (University of Cape Town), certificates in finance, intellectual property and technology management, as well as an EMBA from IMD in Switzerland.

She has held numerous posts in the area of technology and innovation management including Group Executive, Biotechnology, then Executive, Innovation and Enabling Support at the Technology Innovation Agency; Intellectual Property and Commercialisation manager then R&D Outcomes Group Manager at the CSIR; Manager, Business Development and Commercialisation at the Medical Research Council (South Africa). Dr Gumbi is a Fellow of the eighth class of the Africa Leadership Initiative-South Africa and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Dr Gumbi also founded Smart Innovation in 2007 and managed several start-up enterprises in the pharmaceutical area.

Some years past, Dr Gumbi also participated in the COFISA Programme (Cooperation Framework on Innovation Systems between South Africa and Finland). She was one of a dozen black professionals that were given the opportunity to study foresight methodologies and futures thinking.

Dr Gumbi is best described as an entrepreneur who has a passion for ensuring that South African innovation reaches the market. Her career has spanned the technology innovation value chain starting from idea creation to where she is now, an entrepreneur: “Throughout my career I have always had a deep passion for innovation, especially innovation related to the development of new technologies and inventions. Taking new products that could improve people’s lives to the market is an exciting challenge and opportunity.”

Her company, iVacBio, is a uniquely African company involved in the development and manufacture of quality biologics including monoclonal antibodies, and other biotherapeutic proteins used to prevent and treat animal diseases. She notes that, given the complexity of realizing iVacBio, foremost in her mind was to gain exposure and experience in technology development, intellectual property management and identifying the right funding opportunities for a start-up company. Needless to say, it was also important to build and grow her network of contacts both within the NSI and abroad.

Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is that if you are truly passionate about an opportunity, break down the idea into manageable chunks of work that build up towards the bigger vision: “You don’t have to race against time nor demonstrate success from the word go. But you do have to work hard and remain focused. Good ideas take time to build, but it is important that you make a start, no matter how small. Remember that todays ideas are tomorrow’s reality.”