The Department of Pharmacology at the Faculty of Health Sciences hosted the 53rd Annual Conference of the South African Society for Basic and Clinical Pharmacology on the 5th to 7th of October, 2019.
Day 1: Young Pharmacologists Take the Lead
The first day focused on Young Pharmacologists who impressed attendees with their scientific ability, presenting exceptional research in diverse fields. Presentations included analytical methodology development, clinical pharmacology-related research, regulatory aspects involved in prescription and drug duplication, bioinformatic-based predictability, pharmacogenetics and scientific study of pre-clinical research of cancer, malaria and wounds.
Ms Anne-Marie Pordon (Elsevier) shared suggestions on how to streamline the publication process for our Young Pharmacologists. This was followed by a panel discussion whereby seasoned dissertation and thesis experts highlighted tips, tricks and guidelines for students to improve the quality of their degree examinations.
Day 2: Experts Unpack Pharmacogenetics, Biological Medicines and Regulation
Numerous experts shared insight on various topics on the second day of the conference. Delegates presented research on diverse fields of pharmacology relating to regulation and guideline practices, Big Food and Big Pharma, clinical practice, nano-drug delivery systems and in silico drug design. Prof Michael Pepper (Director at the Department of Immunology and Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Pretoria), presented the current and future applications of cell and gene therapy in diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus infection, which is pertinent to the South African sector. "We need to ensure universal access - no single life is better than another," said Prof Pepper as he stressed the importance of treatment for all.
"The aim of personalised medicine is to get as many people into a cohort of therapeutic benefit with no side effects in a short amount of time as possible," shared Dr Danny Meyersfeld, Founder of DNAlysis Biotechnology who presented on the importance of personalised medicine.
New technology has become important in terms of the economics of pharmacogenetics. "Genotyping has become a cost-effective method compared to sequencing," shared Ms Bianca Sansom, Laboratory Manager at GeneWay, who touched on the topic as she presented on high-throughput technologies available for genotyping and sequencing.
Another aspect that was addressed during the regulatory pharmacology session was the benefits of knowing your genetic make-up in pharmacological treatment, "Genotyping will be important for any future pharmacology a person may be taking," said Ms Debby Langley who presented the topic “Why prescription drugs can hurt? Using pharmacogenomics to reduce risk”.
Prof Andrew Walubo (University of the Free State), Prof Helmuth Reuter (Stellenbosch University) and Ms Martlie Mocke-Richter (University of the Free State) presented a symposium on biological medicines. They provided critical information on the safety and appropriate use of biological medicines, detail on the most commonly used version in South Africa (mainly for rheumatoid arthritis), as well as a reflection on current research.
The day ended with an awards ceremony at a Harvest Table, where delegates were entertained by the South African band, The Capitals. Prize-giving was not only for undergraduate and postgraduate students but also included Young Pharmacologists and Senior Pharmacologists who presented exceptional research and educational practice in Pharmacology.
Day 3: Conference Closes off with Symposium and Discussion about Medical Cannabis
The final day of the conference kicked off with a symposium and panel discussion on medical cannabis. Dr Roland van Rensburg (Stellenbosch University), Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa (University of the Free State) and Dr Edith Madela-Mntla (University of Pretoria) presented an overview of the current knowledge, regulations and research of medical cannabis, after which a riveting open-floor panel discussion was held.
Sponsors also had an opportunity to share an overview of their products and current applications. This was followed by educationalists sharing their research in blended learning and innovative andragogical techniques aimed aim increasing teaching and learning in pharmacology.