The Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU), in collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), has officially opened the Biochemistry Research Centre wherein three research laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment are set up.

The centre consists of the Tissue Culture Laboratory, Covid-19 Surveillance Laboratory, and the Malaria Laboratory.

UNIZULU and SAMRC have been in partnership for 21 years, thus the launch of these labs was partly in celebration of the collaboration.

SAMRC President and CEO Professor Glenda Gray officially opened the research centre in the presence of SAMRC and UNIZULU representatives.

Professor Gray said, “The decision to collaborate with universities was another critical step in the right direction to producing innovative, high impact medical research. We are excited to see scientists embarking on bold and innovative projects in Africa. (The) UNIZULU partnership was first established in 2001.”

As she welcomed guests, Professor Vuyokazi Nomlomo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning,  expressed elation and affirmed that the relationship between the two partners would indeed not end with the establishment of the labs. She confidently stated that the collaboration would have a very positive impact on staff and students. “UNIZULU would like to thank you for over two decades of capacity development,” Prof Nomlomo told  the SAMRC team. She added: “This is an extremely exciting moment to all of us. You come at a very strategic time when our vision 2027 starts. Our new vision as a university is to be a leading comprehensive African university that thrives on quality and fosters collaborative and innovative cultures with its rural and urban campuses.”

Prof Albertus Basson, Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, shared that through this collaboration the University has produced a number of master’s and doctoral students. His hope is that these new labs will have an impact in bringing up more master’s as well as PhD candidates. “This collaboration has produced people who have made history in their families by being the first PhD holders. For that we are eternally grateful. Professor Miller and Prof Globe started this a while back. I would like to thank SAMRC for funding these young researchers,” he said.

The deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation Professor Nokuthula Kunene, supported Prof Basson’s statement, saying in the past five years, the Biochemistry and Microbiology Department has grown in leaps and bounds in terms of publications and producing master’[s and doctoral graduates “who now work all over the country”.

– Precious Shamase