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‘I will live’ venture will boost science, says minister

A South African venture producing active pharmaceutical ingredients for drugs, including anti-retrovirals, will provide opportunities for pharmaceutical scientists, the country’s science minister has said.

South Africa currently imports all the active pharmaceutical ingredients for its anti-retroviral drugs, and imports make up a large share of the country’s US$3.2 billion annual outlay on drugs.

However, the 1.6bn rand (US$206 million) plant announced by four government ministers in Cape Town on 10 February aims to boost local pharmaceuticals production. The initiative is a partnership between the South African government and Lonza, a Swiss medical products company.

The joint venture, Ketlaphela (“I will live”), will be owned by the government, Lonza and the South African state-owned company Pelchem, a subsidiary of the Nuclear Energy Corporation.

The South African state will contribute R1bn, while Lonza and Pelchem will provide R500m and R100m respectively. The initiative will add value to South Africa’s flourspar, a mineral used in medicines of which the country has the second largest reserves in the world.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s science minister, told journalists that the investment would provide opportunities for the country’s scientists, and for drug innovation across Africa.

“Government investment in a R1.6bn pharmaceutical joint venture will enable South Africa’s local pharmaceutical industry to benefit from current and future global scientific research and innovation,” she said.

Ketlaphela will be a South African company with a significant state ownership component through Pelchem and the Industrial Development Corporation, a state-owned national finance institution promoting growth and industrial development.

The project will aim to reduce the country’s dependence on imported drugs and will provide security of supply of priority drugs, and stable pricing with less sensitivity to foreign exchange fluctuations.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said South Africa is the biggest consumer of anti-retroviral drugs in the world.

The plant will be built in Phelandaba, Tshwane. Construction is expected to start in 2013 and be completed in 2016.