Biotechnology Hubs and Future Incubators in Africa

Biotechnology Hubs and Future Incubators in Africa

By Kipchirchir Bitok

Innovation and invention in biotechnology has continued to escalate worldwide. As a result, biotech hubs and incubators have cropped up in niche U.S. cities like Raleigh, San Francisco and Chicago and regions like Asia and Europe to harness this scientific vigor. Africa has not been left behind. For the past few years, several African governments have independently established biotech hubs and incubators to encourage private-public partnerships. Institutions of higher learning have also taken cues and initiated their own research centers that are serving as (and are potential) incubators for the current and next generations of innovators from this region.

BioPark Mauritius: Africa’s First Biotechnology Hub

One example of an initiative that helps invigorate biomedical research in Africa is BioPark Mauritius. Touted as one of the first multidisciplinary hubs in Africa, BioPark Mauritius (http://www.bioparkmauritius.mu/) provides a dedicated space for research and development in the biotechnology sector. BioPark Mauritius comprises state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities covering an area of over 10,000 square meters. The initiative receives a share of the 1% of the annual GDP (USD 11.5 billion in 2015) allocated to the R&D sector by the Mauritian government.

BioPark’s main goal is to attract multi-disciplinary research in the life sciences field that include, but not limited to, microbiology, chemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, and epidemiology. As of March 2016, five biotech companies and two contract research organizations (CROs) have established their operations at BioPark. One of the companies is focused on the invention of environmentally friendly medical consumable supplies such as syringes, gloves, blades e.t.c. It has recently been reported that 5% of all catheters sold worldwide are produced by leading European medical device companies that have set up shop in BioPark Mauritius (1). If anything, this is an indication of the successful trajectory that the life sciences research is poised to take in this up and coming region.  

Other African Biotech Hubs and Incubators

Below are additional initiatives, physical spaces, and organizations of interest in the continent. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should serve as a start for anyone looking to venture into biotech research in Africa.

The Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN) (http://www.biotechsocietynigeria.org/) aims to advance the biotech sector in Nigeria by promoting collaboration between the local and the international community.

The Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics at the University of Western Cape (https://www.uwc.ac.za/faculties/ns/IMBM/Pages/default.aspx) in South Africa is a potential microcosm and hub for drug discovery.

The Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria (http://www.fabinet.up.ac.za/) holds the promise as a destination for the development of agrochemicals.

The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) (http://www.icgeb.org/home-ct.html) in Cape Town, South Africa has the capability to advance the understanding of human disease from various perspectives.

Biovac in South Africa (http://www.biovac.co.za/) set to develop and make vaccines for the African market.

SAMED (http://www.samed.org.za/), a big player in the medical device industry in Africa can help foster start ups in this space and serve as an incubator.

The Kenya Biotechnology Information Center (KEBIC) (http://kebic.or.ke/index.html) was set up in 2013 by the Kenyan government to promote the biotech sector in the country through local higher education institutions.

The Institute for Biotechnology Research (IBR) (http://www.jkuat.ac.ke/institutes/ibr/) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya has the wherewithal to train the next generation of home grown scientists.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has been a major player in the advancement of Agricultural practises in Kenya for decades.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) (http://www.ilri.org/research) with their main focus on livestock research knows best what it takes to conduct research in underrepresented and underserved regions. Perhaps they are a good place to look for pointers?

The Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) (http://www.ugandabic.org/n/) disseminates information on biotechnological innovations and advances in agricultural research in Uganda. This also has the potential to do the same for the biomedical research field in Uganda.

The Institute of biotechnology at Addis Ababa University (http://www.aau.edu.et/ibt/) in Ethiopia (in collaboration with Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) can be a player in the East African region.

The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (NABDA) (http://www.nabda.gov.ng/) has a mandate to promote biotech research by advancing the use of cutting-edge technology in Nigeria and has the potential to serve as an example to other countries in the continent.

We hope this list helps further your research and development.

References:

1) HealthCare & Life Sciences Review. Mauritius, Open for Business. http://pharmaboardroom.com/wp-content/files_mf/1457959304MAURITIUSPharmareportMarch2016_Pharmaboardroom.com.pdf, Mar. 2016. Web. 23 July 2016.

Image Credits: Photo taken by Kip at the Rockefeller University’s Laboratory for Genetically Encoded Molecules

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