School-Industry Collaboration: Recent Case Studies from China
Prof Wang of Beijing University shared with the World Bank a few recent school-industry collaboration cases from China which the Africa Centers of Excellence could adopt. These include: flexible tri-semester design to balance practical and academic curriculum, formalized apprenticeship, industry-ordered training programs, human resource sharing (teachers and industrialists mingle) and joint patent.
The Africa Centre of Excellence for Materials, Product Development & Nanotechnology (MAPRONANO ACE) established at the College of Engineering, Design, Art, and Technology at Makerere University, has joined the frontline in the fight against coronavirus. Together with partners they are creating technologies that can help combat the spread of the disease.
Working in partnership with CODEK Engineering Ltd, a private partner, the Center has developed a self-sanitising facemask with an inbuilt sanitiser, allowing for real-time disinfection while at work, as well as reuse of the facemask. “The logistics challenge of protective gears compounded by lack of efficient masks requires the need for reusable masks; therefore this mask can abet the logistics challenge of face masks since it is reusable, and also minimizes the rate of health worker hospital-acquired infection since it allows for frequent sanitisation,” said Mr. Brian Mujuni, the Center Manager, MAPRONANO
Pharm-Biotechnology & Traditional Medicine Centre (PHARMBIOTRAC), a Center of Excellence at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) has started making hand sanitisers in response to COVID-19. The product is a brainchild of Mr. Angupale Jimmy Ronald, a production laboratory officer at PHARMBIOTRAC.
According to the Center, the project was already in the pipeline but was fast-tracked when the demand for hand sanitisers went up due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Some sellers took advantage of the situation and dramatically increased the price of the sanitisers. The team at PHARMBIOTRAC realised that this was exploitative, moreover for products which could easily be produced from low cost raw materials. To accelerate the production, the team contributed their own money to kick start the project under the business name, PharmSan.
The innovator products for PharmSan are hand sanitisers of liquid and gel formulation. The initial idea was a natural disinfectant to be developed from herbs with broad spectrum antibacterial activities due to perceived shift in consumer preference for natural products and the adverse effects of ethanol or isopropranol alcohol on the skin. The team working on PharmSan started by modifying the initial product formula to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) prescribed guidelines of hand sanitisers for prevention of COVID-19.
The team therefore started with literature review of the accepted WHO formula for production of hand sanitisers, followed by conduct of trial formulations based on the guidelines. Critical quality control attributes such as pH and alcohol content were considered during the development of the product. The optimum formula was then scaled up for batch production. Later, the two product standards for the manufacture of hand sanitisers and disinfectants were purchased from Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). UNBS requirements are currently being incorporated to further optimize the quality of the product. This will be followed by an audit by UNBS before registration and certification of the products.
Product Sales and Donations
PharmSan hand sanitisers have been greatly received and accepted by the community, and can be found in leading supermarkets and pharmacies in Mbarara Town. The first client was Raz Pharmaceuticals Limited, a wholesale pharmacy in Mbarara. Some products have been donated to security staff at MUST, police force in Mbarara, and staff at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital.
Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
Choroquine and Hydroxychloroquine have been reported as beneficial in CoVID-19 and found to be effective in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro. Chloroquine is easily available in Uganda as a pharmaceutical product, but its derivative hydroxychloroquine which is 40% less toxic is not available in Uganda even as a pharmaceutical product. In fact, East Africa has no facility for production de novo of chloroquine or hydoroxychloroquine.
The local drug companies rely entirely on importation of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) from China, India and other countries. This puts East Africa at risk if due to the pandemic these APIs cannot be imported. “In order to enable production of chloroquine and hyxroxychloroquine in Uganda, our scientists are reviewing various off-patent methods of synthesis for possible modification in the local production of these two active ingredients needed by the local industry,” said Dr. Casim Umba Tolo, the Center Leader for Pharmbiotrac.
Potential medicinal plants against SARS-CoV-2
The team has identified five locally available medicinal plants with antiviral and immunomodulatory effects for testing against Coronavirus infection in rabbit models or other suitable models. Currently, the team is working on modalities of plant sourcing, plant extraction and designing the experimental design in animal models.
The Pharm-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre (PHARMBIOTRAC) is one of the 24 Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centersof Excellence (ACE II) program. PHARMBIOTRAC was established at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in 2017 with the financial support of the World Bank.
The goalof PHARMBIOTRAC is “to build a critical mass of specialised and skilled human resource that can advance traditional medicine and Pharm-Biotechnology for socio-economic development of Africa.”
For more information:
At Mbarara University
Dr. Casim Umba Tolo
Director/Centre Leader of Pharm-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre (PHARMBIOTRAC), Mbarara University of Science & Technology,
P.O. Box 1410, Mbarara, Uganda.
Mobile: +256 772 837055
Dr. Patrick Ogwang
Principal Investigator and Deputy Centre Leader, PHARMBIOTRAC,
Mbarara University of Science & Technology
The Centre for Innovative Drug Development & Therapeutic Trials for Africa (CDT-Africa), a World Bank financed Africa Center of Excellence based at the University of Addis Ababa has joined a global COVID -19 Clinical Research Coalition of over 70 institutions from over 30 countries. The coalition “aims to accelerate desperately needed COVID-19 research in those areas where the virus could wreak havoc on already-fragile health systems and cause the greatest health impact on vulnerable populations.” More about this coalition in a comment by the Lancent.
In addition, CDT-Africa has established an advisory committee that includes ethics review board chairs and secretaries, the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority, and institutions affiliated to the Federal Ministry of Health. The committee is developing recommendations for the conduct of clinical trials in an emergency context.
The Center of Excellence is also working on two clinical trial protocols: 1 related to a promising treatment and 1 related to health system improvement relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. CDT-Africa has also developed natural products-based antiseptic and is working to scale up the production to assist with the control effort given the rising shortage of hand sanitisers.
In addition, the Center has established a knowledge synthesis unit that will make daily updates on COVID-19.
“We are working in full consultation and guidance of Addis Ababa University. The university has already dedicated 10 million Birr to support the research effort of its staff,” Dr. Fekadu said in a statement.
Other funders making the work at CDT-Africa possible include the National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council (UK) and partners – Brighton and Sussex Medical School/University of Sussex, King’s College London, Georgia Tech, Emory University and Ohio State University.
You can find the full range of COVID-19 interventions by CDT-Africa here
CDT Africa is one of the 24 Centers of Excellence in the ACE II project. The objective of the ACE II Project is to support the selected Eastern and Southern African higher education institutions to deliver quality post-graduate education and build collaborative research capacity in the regional priority areas.
Other Africa Centers of Excellence are supporting country-led responses and these will be shared in the coming days.