Project funded by SANBio/BioFISA II scooped up a Gauteng Acceleration Programme Award

Prof Collen Masimirembwa and Prof Collet Dandara

A project receiving funding from the NEPAD Southern Africa Network for Biosciences / BioFISA II Programme, entitled Gene Dose EFV was awarded the 1st place award in GAP Biosciences/Medical Innovations at the recent Gauteng Acceleration Programme (GAP) event which was held in South Africa Gauteng on 17 November 2016.

The Gene Dose EFV project is about the development of a Genetic test for the cost effective use of efavirenz. This test will reduce healthcare costs as well as reduce side-effects in patients taking efavirenz (one of the commonly used antiretroviral drugs as part of first line therapy). The project was awarded R500 000 by GAP which will be used towards the goals of the project. The winners will also be supported in business development services from Maxim Business Incubator and will also join the new BioPark at The Innovation Hub.

Earlier this year the Gene Dose EFV project had already been selected as a recipient of a R1000 000 Seed Grant under the SANBio/BioFISA II programme.

The project is a collaboration between African Institute for Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) and University of Cape Town (UCT). After the two institutions discovered that they both pursuing the same vision, Prof Collen Masimirembwa (AiBST) and Prof Collet Dandara (UCT) decided that it was productive to join hands and carry out this project together.

The project was a combination of solid scientific enquiry led by two leading researchers in the pharmacogenomics research field, supported with evidence from the lab on the possible utility of the proposed genetic test. In addition, this team is complimented by business oriented team members.

Professor Dandara was enthusiastic about the potential demonstrated by their success: “The project really encapsulates intercountry collaboration, in this case between Zimbabwe and South Africa. What I see with winning this award is that, with dedicated support, scientific discoveries that are buried in lab books have an opportunity to be translated into useful innovations with commercial value. I also think that more efforts should be directed at bringing together academia and industry to further exploit all the technologies which sometimes do not see the light of day.”

The GAP-Biosciences programme seeks to address the gap that exists between prototype stage and commercialisation of life science technologies. While scientists thrive in an R&D environment, a lack of business skills generally exists. To address this, GAP-Biosciences seeks to provide essential business skills specifically to these scientists, and is aimed at facilitating the commercialisation of bioscience technologies. The top innovators win seed funding aimed at assisting to further progress their business ideas, coupled with incubation support.