THE University of Zimbabwe (UZ) is committed providing research opportunities in new medicines to its students so as to fulfill the Education 5.0 mandate which consist of teaching, research, community service, innovation and industrialization.
By Patricia Mashiri
The new medicines research will among other things help ease the burden of drug importation, in the process aid in the reduction in drug prices. This means more people locally will have more access to medicines.
Speaking at the National Dialogue on the Local Manufacture of Medicines in Zimbabwe, Professor Florence Mtambanengwe, the Executive Director, Research and Innovation at UZ said they have introduced academic programs that engineer new ideas and innovation in drug manufacturing.
Despite producing hundreds of chemists, pharmacists, pharmacologists, technologists, medical doctors and biomedical engineers, Zimbabwe remains a net importer of pharmaceutical products. To enhance the capacity to produce and contribute to the body knowledge and skills in drug manufacturing, the University of Zimbabwe has taken the following bold steps: introduce new academic programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and pivot the research pillar to be the engine of new ideas and innovations.
“The new programs are related to drug and pharmaceuticals include BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science Pharmacy and Drug Discovery, BSc (Hons) Drug Discovery and Therapeutics, BSc (Hons) Clinical Pharmacology, BSc (Hons) Biotechnology and Biochemistry (Plant Biochemistry and Medicinal Chemistry),BSc (Hons) Pharmaceutical Chemistry, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Engineering and MSc Clinical Pharmacology,” Professor Mtambanengwe said.
Professor Mtambanengwe added that UZ recently opened an innovation hub which is aimed at providing a conducive environment for University Researchers, students, public and private sector to develop, adapt, adopt, transfer and commercialise technology relevant to the needs of people. A Proposed mini-Drug and Pharmaceutical Research and Development Unit will be housed at the Innovation Hub.
It will be used for testing various manufacturing parameters for example dissolution and compaction pressures so that by the time the dosage form is ready for manufacture, it has been developed well for the selected medicine. It is also a platform to nurture innovators and entrepreneurs to produce goods and services, and to create opportunities to grow start-ups or seed industry
The COVID 19 pandemic came as a wakeup call which needed a global response. The world saw huge demands for test kits, generic medicines, ventilators and vaccines and countries. Zimbabwe, along with rest of Africa, saw the need to start manufacturing its own medical products including diagnostics, medicines and medical devices.