ABNE study tour open doors for collaboration with SANBio

ABNE delegates pose for a group photo with SANBio Manager (Interim) and CSIR Biosciences representatives

The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) hosted a delegation from African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) on 6 June 2014 at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, South Africa. The aim of the visit was to assess and establish collaboration opportunities between these institutions and clarify the role of CSIR Biosciences in the advancement of biotechnology and biosafety in South Africa as well as a tour of the facility.

Sibusiso Ralarala, Marketing and Communications Manager, CSIR Biosciences, welcomed the delegates to the CSIR and introduced other representatives from the unit. He expressed gratitude at the visiting delegation for choosing CSIR as one of the institutions that they have shown interest in. “We believe that the visit will be beneficial to all parties concerned, i.e. CSIR, SANBio and ABNE,” said Ralarala.

The event brought together CSIR Biosciences representatives and ABNE delegates from various African countries to share ideas and possible collaboration opportunities.

Dr Ereck Chakauya, Network Manager (Interim), SANBio, emphasised the idea of collaboration by saying: “The visit should open doors for collaboration with other African countries. We need to work together through sharing knowledge and ideas for the betterment of our societies. ”

Samuel Timpo, Associate Director of ABNE said: “The purpose of this initiative is to assist African regulators from countries that are currently developing or in the process of implementing systems and guidelines for biosafety in their countries to build capacities. The experience during the visit to South Africa is expected to assist participants to develop their expertise in biotechnology and biosafety regulation, their implementation and enforcement, with the view of creating an enabling environment for biotechnology in the participating African countries. ”

“We encourage study tours to institutions and countries that are making progress in our field of expertise, and also work together with partner institutions just like SANBio,” explained Timpo.

The programme for the day included presentations on the overview of SANBio and the role the CSIR in hosting the SANBio hub, the CSIR overview, advancement of Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Africa and a video showcasing various research activities with the three competency areas in the CSIR Biosciences unit..

The event was concluded with a tour of facilities like laboratories green houses and growth rooms. Dr Tsepo Tsekoa, Science Innovation Leader, CSIR Biosciences said: “The excellent facilities together with the highly skilled staff  have contributed to the operating unit being established as the leading centre for translating biosciences discoveries into products and technologies with impact in industry and society.

“Thank you to the CSIR for hosting us. We are grateful for the opportunity of being here and for the information that you have shared with us,” Said Timpo in his closing remarks.

ABNE is a continent-wide biosafety service network. The Network is African-based, Africa-led initiative established by the NEPAD agency. Its services include information, training, education, and technical assistance related to the development of biosafety guidelines, standard operating procedures and implementing regulations. Moreover, ABNE facilitates policy dialogue through networking activities that bring together African regulators, policymakers, scientists, and relevant stakeholders at national, regional, and international levels. The overall goal of the ABNE service network is to build functional biosafety systems in Africa. ABNE biosafety services aim to empower African regulators with science-based information, targeting the members of National Biosafety Committees (NBCs), Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs), and Plant Quarantine Officers (PQs) so that they can make informed decisions on biotechnology products.