Speaking to Kieno Kammies on Cape Talk, Vice-Dean for research at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine, Professor Nico Gey van Pittius said the facility will aim to improve the treatment of diseases such as HIV, diabetes and tuberculosis.
The University had been working on the project – which will cost R1 billion – since 2011. The funding for the BMRI comes from contributions from the University’s council, as well as the Department of Higher Education and several other foundations. Professor Nico Gey van Pittius adds:
“The Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in one of the top medical research institutions in Africa. […] We have been very successful in our research over many years in addressing various aspects of diseases in our continent, but we’ve been lacking behind in infrastructure.”
The Biomedical Research Institute will help faculty to realise the University’s vision “of becoming Africa’s leading research-intensive university,” according to Professor Wim De Villiers, Vice-Chancellor. It will be a “fully integrated, future-focused and superbly organised research complex.”
Advancement from research in Africa
The BMRI will be on par with some of the most advanced and sophisticated research facilities in the world and will put Africa on the map when it comes to the teaching capacity in fields such as anatomy, neurobiology, advanced surgical sciences, genomics, and so forth. Von Pittius explains:
“Africa bears the brunt of the global burden of disease, with a number of major epidemics colliding across our continent. With one of the top medical faculties in Africa, Stellenbosch University has a huge responsibility to help lead in the endeavour to ensure healthy lives and wellbeing for all.”
Besides the range of research laboratories, the Biomedical Research Institute will also host a Bioinformatics Hub, as well as Electron microscopy laboratories, Morphology Museum, Biorepository and Proteomics and FACS laboratories, to name a few.
Sustainability is key
The project is based on sustainability and the facility will include energy and water systems, as well as waste management. Negative air pressure “will keep hazardous fumes or airborne toxins” from filtering out of labs into adjacent areas.
A smart lighting system will be able to detect areas where natural light is stronger and adjust accordingly, which in turn would save on the use of electricity, while the greywater system will harvest rainwater.
The faculty will also encourage a healthy lifestyle among students and staff alike at the Biomedical Research Institute, with a secure bicycle storage area and shower facilities to encourage everyone to cycle to work.