Below is a roundup of latest news from South Africa’s life sciences and healthcare industries, including a call to overhaul patent laws to allow better access to COVID-19 drugs, innovation for HIV and TB medication adherence, COVID-19 vaccine trials, gut microbiome testing and supply chain lessons from the pandemic.


Coalition aims to fix South Africa’s patent laws to ensure access to Covid-19 drugs

South Africa’s Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) coalition is made of 40 patient groups and civil organisations and is speaking out to reform the country’s outdated patent laws. The coalition claims that if the current patent laws do not undergo reform, critical Covid-19 treatments will not be accessible for the patients who need them most.  FTPL has urged the government to put a temporary moratorium from issuing patents on COVID-19-related health products and to put in place an automatic compulsory licensing mechanism.


HIV and TB can now be treated with a single pill

Cipla South Africa has come up with a novel solution to South Africa’s high number of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV patients. Its fixed-dose combination medicine, Cotrizid is a single tablet that can treat both diseases. It is estimated that about 80% of South Africans have latent TB, and according to the WHO, people living with HIV are over 15 times times more likely to develop TB. Cipla hopes that reducing the pill burden for patients can help achieve a reduced TB prevalence and undetectable HIV viral load.


African continent’s first Covid-19 vaccine trial to take place in South Africa

Two thousand individuals are set to participate in the African continent’s first human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, joining the UK and Brazil in rolling out testing. The vaccine, developed at Oxford University, is called ChAdOx1 nCov-19. The study is being carried out in urban areas with a high risk of SARS-CoV2 infection. South Africa’s participation in the trials will ensure the country and Africa are considered with priority rather than relegated to the back of the queue when a vaccine goes into production.


South African biotech partnering with Viome to provide gut microbiome tests

Next Biosciences, a South African biotech company, has announced a new partnership with microbiome company Viome to make its Gut Intelligence® Test available in South Africa. The test analyses a person’s microbiome to make individualised recommendations on foods to reduce or consume more of. Viome uses artificial intelligence to sequence RNA to view human microbial composition and activity.


Experts comment on Covid-19’s impact on the life science air freight supply chain

A recent webinar by Pharma.Aero on the future of life science airfreight brought together experts in air cargo and supply chain management to discuss lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. Panelists agreed that the sector will see more fast-track digitisation, agility and collaboration going forward. The pandemic has taught stakeholders throughout the supply chain to focus on agility, resilience, visibility and collaboration.