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Picture: 123RF/VSKA
Picture: 123RF/VSKA

US-based, SA-born surgeon professor Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the health-care sector, is among the top speakers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) seventh Biennial Conference taking place on November 11 and 12 2020. 

The two-day virtual conference, themed “Touching lives through innovation” will play host to a myriad conversations between CSIR researchers, the government and industry representatives. The conference will be jam-packed with exciting discussions and technology demonstrations, interviews, virtual tours, webinars and talks by local and international experts, in fields ranging from health, mining and manufacturing to defence, energy and advanced agriculture and food, among others.

Watch the video below:

The experts will also look at how the fourth industrial revolution and small businesses can help SA’s economic recovery. National and international speakers will also unpack innovation strategies to address Africa’s food security challenges and lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Soon-Shiong, MD, chair and CEO of NantWorks, founded and sold several health-care companies and developed the blockbuster cancer drug, Abraxane.

In the session: Biopharmaceuticals: Global partnerships, localisation and technology convergence, Soon-Shiong will be joined by CSIR principal researcher Dr Tsepo Tsekoa to discuss how the convergence of health care, information technology and artificial intelligence is transforming health care. Tsekoa will talk about the CSIR’s biopharmaceuticals production capability and breakthroughs, and what role partnerships are playing to maximise impact.

Soon-Shiong and Tsekoa will be comparing notes on the future, but also on the CSIR’s involvement in the Covid-19 pandemic through recombinant diagnostics and therapeutics production, and the importance of capacitating the local industry to produce clinical-grade biologics for regulated trials and market entry.

With the organisation’s scientific capability in chemicals, health and advanced agriculture and food, relevant discussion about cannabis, biopharming and the link between a person’s microbiome profile and their unique disease risk profile. It will be accessible to anybody who registers for the virtual conference.

Dr Blessed Okole, CSIR’s agro-processing research group leader, will be in conversation with industry and government representatives, discussing the opportunities and challenges for the cannabis industry and what national strategies are in place to support it. The panel discussion will zoom into the full value chain of the industry from supply to product development and assess some of the infrastructure in place to support the industrialisation of cannabis in SA, including its legal framework.

Okole will host another panel discussion on the industrialisation of cannabis. The first speaker will focus on medicinal cannabis and the second on hemp and hemp products. The panel members will explore how the cannabis and hemp industry can support socioeconomic development.

Some of the key questions they aim to answer through this discussion are: What should be done to correct industrialisation requirements that seem to be excluding the poor and marginalised? How can cannabis be industrialised without benefiting an elite few at the expense of ordinary workers and, most importantly, how does Africa protect its market base on the continent, and compete internationally?

An interview with CSIR senior researcher Dr Jerolen Naidoo is yet another thought-provoking conversation about the CSIR’s microbiome mapping initiative. The programme aims to create a platform that will ultimately allow for the early diagnosis of disease risk and the provision of personalised health care through a deeper understanding of the relationship between a person’s gut microbiome profile and their health, environment and lifestyle.

The gut is generally regarded as the richest source of microbial density within the human body, and the recent emergence of the functional importance of these microbes to human health has revealed how an individual’s microbiome profile may influence their unique disease risk profile and clinical outcomes related to specific treatments.             

In the interview, Naidoo will give an overview of the CSIR microbiome mapping initiative and its potential to improve public health surveillance and disease management in SA.

To participate in these and other conversations, register here.

View the full programme here.

For more information, visit www.csir.co.za.

This article was paid for by the CSIR.

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