Government will look at the use of ‘African medicines’ as immune-modulators and anti-coronavirus therapeutics, says minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande.
In a media briefing on Wednesday (8 July), Nzimande said that one of the herbs that his team is looking at is Artemisia afra– also known as Umhlonyana, wilde-als or wild/African wormwood.
Experts are researching several South African herbs and formulations, he noted. These are plants with documented evidence for treatment of respiratory infections, signs and symptoms.
“As the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) we have reassigned R15 million from existing indigenous knowledge projects to support Covid-19 interventions, and have submitted proposal for additional funding, especially for clinical studies, SMME support cultivation, agro-processing, and job creation,” he said.
“The DSI is also leading a research and innovation pillar of the cannabis industrialisation master plan. To this extent, our focus is to develop medicinal products for Covid-19, cancers, diabetes, TB and HIV/AIDS and neurodegenerative diseases, amongst others,” he said.
Nzimande said that processes are also underway at the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) for the establishment of dedicated structures for African medicines regulations, evaluation of African medicines clinical trials and registration of these medicines for commercial and clinical application.
“South Africa is the third-most biodiverse country in the world. Together with the Technology Innovation Agency and the Industrial Development Corporation, we have created the Natural Indigenous Products Fund, under the BioProducts Advancement Network South Africa (BioPanza) initiative.
“Through these initiatives we will be creating small and medium enterprises owned by Indigenous Knowledge Holders; thus, creating decent job opportunities, alleviate poverty, and empower the poor.
“Our DSI’s decadal plans envisage the establishment of an IK-Based Bio-Innovation Institute, which will be a precursor to Africa’s first plant-based pharmaceutical industry,” he said.