Dr Martin Friede, vaccine research coordinator at the World Health Organization (WHO), and Prof. Tulio de Oliveira of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), will be among the speakers at the launch of Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) 2021 on Wednesday, 1 December.
The discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 by South African scientists has highlighted both the significance of genomic sequencing and the critical importance of vaccinating populations. Both the main speakers at the launch of SFSA 2021, the flagship event of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), are doing extensive work in these fields.
Dr Friede, who will deliver the keynote address, is leading the vaccine technology transfer effort in Africa. Earlier this year, the WHO announced the selection of South Africa to establish and host a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccine production hub. Dr Friede is the WHO expert on technologies for developing and improving vaccines, including adjuvants, stabilisation methods, and needle-free vaccine delivery systems.
The opening event will also feature Prof. De Oliveira, the world-renowned bioinformatician who identified the Beta variant of COVID-19 in South Africa in December 2020. Prof. De Olivera will talk about the work involved in detecting the Beta variant and completing the sequencing of 10 000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes.
The DSI hosts the three-day Science Forum South Africa annually at its traditional home, the CSIR International Convention Centre. This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, a limited number of Day 1 sessions will be held both physically and virtually, with the subsequent two days taking place completely virtually.
The opening event will see the launch of the DSI’s 2020/21 Annual Report, followed by a panel discussion on South Africa’s pioneering science in response to COVID-19. Among the panelists will be Daniel Ndima of CapeBio, the local biotechnology company authorised to manufacture rapid COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits.
First held in 2015, SFSA brings together significant numbers of national and international participants annually to discuss the role of science, technology and innovation in addressing global and local challenges. Taking place under the theme “Ignite Conversations about Science”, SFSA 2021 will provide scientists, researchers, academics, business people and the general public with a platform to discuss pressing global and local challenges including COVID-19, climate change, and the sustainable supply of energy and water.
With a proud record of facilitating the formation of new partnerships, SFSA 2021 will remain true to its mission of advancing the pan-African agenda for science, while the closing plenary session on Friday, 3 December will focus on the special role of the humanities and social sciences in reinforcing South Africa’s efforts to combat COVID‑19.
The programme also features 56 parallel sessions in which participants will debate topical science and innovation policy themes within the context of major societal challenges. Topics will include the COVID-19 vaccination landscape in Africa; smart, green and sustainable transport partnerships; strengthening pandemic preparedness through knowledge transfer; and the future of South Africa’s hydrogen economy.
Details of the opening event:
DATE: Wednesday, 1 December 2021
VENUE: CSIR International Convention Centre, Meiring Naudé Road, Brummeria, Pretoria
TIME: 11:30 – 17:00
To register to attend the online sessions, please visit https://esastap.org.za/sfsa2021/