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Tuesday Jun 28, 2011

Cape Town considers medicine manufacturing hub

Cape Town councillors have thrown their early support behind the establishment of the city's proposed medical technology park, which promises to make medicines cheaper for local residents and position South Africa as a leading medications manufacturer.

The Cape Health Technology Hub is set to be built in Ndabeni, on city-owned land.

A report submitted to the council lastweek, to gauge support for the project, recommended that the council note the planned park.

The initiative is being driven by the national and provincial governments.

A feasibility study is set to be conducted, which will then be presented to the council. It will be funded by the provincial government. Following the results of that study, the city council will consider its future commitment to the project.

A pre-feasibility study recommends that the City of Cape Town offer reduced rates and taxes for tenants at the park during the "start-up period".

Apart from manufacturing medicines, the park will accommodate academics and promote medical research.

It is hoped that the park will help position the country as a leading provider of medications, instead of being heavily reliant on imports. Figures showed that pharmaceutical imports are South Africa's sixth-biggest import.

Councillor Felicity Purchase called the park an "important milestone" for the city. Speaking in the council, she said the city already had an advantage in the health field. It was an ideal location for the technology hub, having two "strong academic hospitals, Groote Schuur and Tygerberg".

Institutions like these, along with the city's universities, would provide a solid foundation for research.

Purchase said 20 businesses had already said they would be willing to be based at the park, an important function of which would include the manufacturing of generics.

ANC councillor Clifford Sitonga said it would help reduce health care costs, making medicines more affordable.

Malcolm Taylor, a UDM councillor, said the park should ensure that the country became world suppliers of medications, instead of just consumers.

The report submitted to the council said that one of the key reasons for establishing the park in Cape Town was that the Ndabeni-based Biovac Institute was also here.

The institute, which does vaccine research, is a publicprivate partnership between the Biovac Consortium and the Health Department.

It is the only facility of its kind in the country, and the national government is aiming to position it as an international vaccine manufacturer.

The report states that one of the "most important criteria" for the establishment of the park in the city is the available land close to the institute. Several council-owned properties adjoin the land.

Cape Argus


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