SA’s budding biotech industry

first_img5 January 2004By international standards, South Africa’s budding biotechnology industry is small. But a national audit has found that the industry has “enormous potential” for growth and investment.The audit, funded by the department of science and technology and the Egoli BIO Life Sciences Incubator, indicates that South Africa has a “pipeline of potential new products and processes in the research and development stage”.It identifies 106 companies participating in biotechnology activities, 47 of which are classified as “core” biotechnology companies solely involved in biotech enterprises.“The fact that there are already 47 biotech companies that have established themselves with very little support gives SA the basis on which to build a much bigger industry”, Bioventures chief executive Heather Sherwin told Business Day newspaper. Bioventures is South Africa’s only biotechnology venture capital fund.The audit found that total spending on biotechnology research and development exceeded R290-million during 2002, while revenues for 48% of products and services in the local biotechnology industry came to R368-million during the same period.A global audit by Ernst & Young found that there were about 600 publicly traded biotechnology companies worldwide at the end of 2002, with a research and development expenditure of US$22-billion. The firms reported revenues of $41.3-billion.Sherwin says it is likely to be some time before local biotech firms start listing on the AltX exchange – SA’s new parallel market for small- and medium-sized companies – let alone on the JSE Securities Exchange main board. According to Sherwin, biotech companies need to have an operating profit greater than R8-million before they can list on AltX. She says only 20% of SA biotech firms have revenue in excess of R10-million.One successful biotech venture is Cape Town-based Synexa Life Sciences. The company specialises in the production of complex “molecular tools that help elucidate the cellular mechanisms that cause disease, enabling the development of new therapeutics.”Synexa chief executive Justin Devine says the creation of a successful biotech company is driven by passion, planned convergence of a world-class team, and products/services that hold a sustainable competitive advantage. “In the right combination, these factors will attract funding at the right time”, he says.Paul Abrahams, chief executive of eGoli BIO, says early stage financing opportunities for local biotech companies are available but are extremely limited because biotechnology is “one of the most difficult industries to understand and therefore perhaps the riskiest”.South Africa also does not currently have a network of “angel investors” – like in the United States – who have deep pockets and are prepared for high-risk and potentially high returns.The challenge, according to the audit, is to take advantage of the opportunities for the development of niche markets in which South African stakeholders can compete on a global scale.This can be facilitated by creating an “enabling environment” that allows stakeholders to maximise the benefit derived from the potential of biotechnology, while minimising the possible risks to the environment and human health.Abrahams advises biotech start-ups to:Understand the perceptions of seed capitalists.Be prepared for scepticism – SA investors are conservative.Explain the biotechnology venture fully to potential investors.Have outstanding management capabilities within the company – not only as scientists.Secure a large and growing market.Have products/services that can be bought to market to generate some income.Have technological backup to give the project a sustainable competitive advantage.Protect intellectual property.BiopadSouth Africa’s bid to commercialise biotechnology recently received a shot in the arm when the government allocated R250-million over two years towards the Biotechnology Partnership for Africa’s Development (Biopad).In addition, the department of science and technology allocated R400-million for the establishment of three regional Biopad biotechnology innovation centres, in accordance with its national biotechnology strategy. The first centre was launched in Johannesburg in March this year. The others will be in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.Biopad was initiated earlier this year as a collective response, by a community of biotechnologists and other professionals, to the challenges posed by the varied needs of the region and the continent.According to the Biopad website, the aim of the initiative is to put South Africa among the world leaders in the application of biotechnology, in so doing “stimulating economic development, contributing to job creation, and building world-class skills and technology platforms to sustain and continue development”.Through a close relationship created between the eGoli BIO incubator, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are nurtured and prepared for commercialisation. External professionals with expertise in finances, marketing, management and business are used to assist the SMMEs.The centres will serve as nuclei for the development of biotechnology platforms, from which a range of businesses offering new products and services can be developed. The centres will promote research and development, entrepreneurial services, technology, intellectual property management and business reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Call for ‘gender-responsive’ budgeting

first_img3 August 2012Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana has called for “gender-responsive” budgeting to be used as a tool for reducing inequality and advancing women’s empowerment.“We are fully aware that budgets have been instrumental in perpetuating gender biases globally,” Xingwana said during the launch of South Africa’s Women’s Month in Pretoria on Wednesday. “We also know that budgets can be instrumental in transforming and redressing existing gender inequalities.”Earlier this year, the department launched the Women and Budgeting Initiative in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation. The aim was to reflect on the budgeting process and economic frameworks and how these could constrain or promote the development and implementation of policies aimed at empowering women and vulnerable groups.South Africans will commemorate Women’s Month under the theme “56 Years of Women United against Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment”.The government declared August Women’s Month as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched, on 9 August 1956, in protest against the extension of apartheid’s hated Pass Laws to women.Xingwana said South Africa had registered significant progress in women’s empowerment and gender equality.“An array of measures, introduced since 1994 to promote women empowerment and uphold gender equality, have drastically improved the position and conditions of women in our country. Women occupy influential positions in government and play an important role in decision-making processes.”Xingwana pointed out, however, that women still bore a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.“Women continue to be marginalised and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities, the labour market as well as access to land, credit and finance.”Xingwana said the process of developing the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill was at an advanced stage, and it would be tabled before Cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year.The Bill will help enforce compliance in both the government and the private sector.Source: read more

Mercedes-Benz to invest further in SA

first_img17 October 2013 German car maker Mercedez-Benz announced its intention to expand its production in South Africa on Wednesday, while Ford Motor Company reaffirmed the US vehicle maker’s commitment to the country. Both developments come ahead of a meeting between vehicle manufacturers and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, scheduled for Thursday, aimed at restoring confidence to the local industry following a series of lengthy strikes. In an interview with news agency Bloomberg on Wednesday, coinciding with the opening of the Johannesburg International Motor Show, Mercedez-Benz South Africa CEO Martin Zimmermann said the company would push ahead with its plan to invest US$302-million (R3-billion) in expanding its production at its manufacturing plant in East London. Zimmerman told Bloomberg that the company would introduce new technology and a third shift in order to boost production from the current 60 000 units to 100 000 units a year. The plant produces the Mercedes-Benz W204 C-Class for both the local and US markets, and is currently preparing for the introduction of the next-generation C-Class in 2014. The East London plant will be one of just four in the world to manufacture the popular luxury sedan. Also on Wednesday, Ford Motor Company global president and CEO Alan Mulally, in an interview with Business Day on the opening day of the Johannesburg International Motor Show, said the company had no plans to cut back on its operations in South Africa. Mulally told Business Day that Ford’s assembly plant in Silverton, Pretoria remained key to its global operations, and “suggested that its importance could grow, following a decision to create a new Ford division for the Middle East and Africa. The company’s Silverton plant, along with its engine plant at Struandale outside Port Elizabeth, produces Ford Ranger pickup trucks for export to 148 countries, mainly in Africa and Europe. Mulally said the group had no plans to start manufacturing elsewhere in Africa. Minister Davies’ scheduled meeting with the industry follows a meeting last week with BMW South Africa MD Bodo Donauer during which BMW said it remained “100% committed” to the ongoing production of the BMW 3 Series Sedan at its plant in Rosslyn outside Pretoria. “However, Mr Donauer stated that it was a matter of fact that lengthy strike action in the automotive sector and the consequent non-supply of 15.8% of annual BMW 3 Series volume, most of which was destined for major export markets, had cost BMW South Africa an opportunity to compete for a potential second model,” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement. “In an open discussion, the parties discussed how they could work together to create a sustainable environment for BMW South Africa to compete for similar additional investments in the future, should the opportunities arise.” Davies told BMW that the government remained committed to supporting the development of motor manufacturing in South Africa, and would be holding further talks with the industry on how to foster a climate that ensured its continuing growth. SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

Australia’s Steve Smith scored 100 for 4th consecutive time

first_imgOn January 7, 2015, Australian cricket captain Steve Smith scored a fourth consecutive century, matching  the previous records made by Sir Donald Bradman and South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis.Smith achieved the feat during the ongoing test series against India. The 25-year-old, who is playing his debut series as captain, has taken his overall tally to 800 from 26 matches. He is said to be at his best.At the score of 117, Smith has managed a position in the top list of highest scorers along with Jaques Kallis and Sir Donald Bradman.Some other 100’s that he scored were in Adelaide, where he managed an unbeaten score of 162, Brisbane with-133 and Melbourne-192.Yearwise quad of century for Bradman against South Africa was 1931-32, while Kallis’ accomplished the feat against the West Indies in 2003-04, followed by Steve Smith in 2015 against India. Smith has piled up 698 runs in the series so far, averaging an exceptional 139.6. Most runs in the series against India has left him at position 3, after Bradman and Ricky Ponting.last_img read more