From a strategic and governance perspective the Institute functions within the academic and operational structures of the University of Pretoria and is managed from the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Institute is primarily a research facility in which the emphasis is on transdisciplinarity and cross-cutting technologies. This is true both within the Faculty of Health Sciences and for the University as a whole. Several Departments/Divisions in the Faculty of Health Sciences are involved in projects within the Institute, as are the following Faculties across the University: Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Law, Economic and Management Sciences, Engineering, Humanities and Theology.
The Institute works closely with the private sector to further its goal of delivering marketable health-care solutions. This routine interaction promotes the transfer of an entrepreneurial culture and skills to the Institute, which is in line with changing paradigms in the academic sector.
In terms of its evolution, the Institute consists of a “core” component housed in the Pathology Building on Prinshof Campus, and an “extended” virtual entity involving the Faculties listed above across the University. The medium-to-long-term objective is to house the Institute in a new building that is to be built at the University’s Medical (Prinshof) Campus.
Message from the Director
With an almost unparalleled richness in biodiversity and natural resources, and perhaps the greatest degree of human diversity on the planet, South Africa has the potential to become a major global economy and also to contribute significantly to the wellbeing of others in many parts of the world. Yet according to the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), South Africa is ranked 52nd out of 144 countries. One of the major reasons is a life expectancy at birth of 52.1 years, which places South Africa at position 133 (out of 144) in this category. This low life expectancy is the consequence of a high burden of disease, to which both communicable and non-communicable diseases are major contributors.
What can be done to alleviate this burden of disease? The answer to this question is complex, and involves patients, the government, academia, and the private sector in many areas including policy, education, and changes in lifestyle. With regard to academia and research in general, the GCI ranking places South Africa at position 34 (out of 144) with regard to the quality of scientific research institutions and at position 20 with regard to intellectual property protection. What then is needed to translate the country’s economic potential and existing resources into tangible solutions for the current burden of disease? Although multifaceted, improvement in health would be a major contributor.
The University of Pretoria has established itself as a leading research-intensive institution on the African continent. Within the University, the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine (ICMM) aims to address several of the critical elements contributing to the disease burden by promoting collaborative research that is multidisciplinary, interdepartmental and interfaculty in nature. The Institute currently comprises 20 research groups in seven of the nine Faculties. Strong links also exist between groups within the ICMM and national and international partners and collaborators.
Several groups in the ICMM have recently been successful in obtaining highly competitive and prestigious funding awards, including the Medical Research Council’s South African Flagship Research Projects Award (to Prof MS Pepper) and the National Research Foundation’s Infrastructure Funding Instruments Awards (to Prof E Pretorius and Prof MS Pepper).
The ICMM is now set to make a major contribution to the alleviation of the high disease burden in South Africa, and also to add to global efforts to reduce morbidity and mortality and the impact that they have on all facets of our lives.
Prof. Michael S. Pepper
What we do
The ICMM is a research space where innovation and dedication are combined and applied to current health crises in South Africa. We are involved in the development of intellectual property ranging from the clinical application of different types of adult stem cells to the analysis of the genetics underlying disease cause, susceptibility, and severity, which can then be translated into a therapeutic product.
The Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine (ICMM) began with an idea in around 2005, to tap into the burden of disease of South Africa for the ultimate benefit of South African patients.
The diversity and richness of South Africa’s people have been largely overlooked on the platform of global health care, which the ICMM believes is an incredibly valuable resource when it comes to the development of holistic patient diagnosis and treatment. We, therefore, strive to bring South African genetic heterogeneity to the global stage as it relates to:
- Genetic testing for diseases often misdiagnosed in African populations
- Identifying genetic elements relating to disease susceptibility or severity
In addition to genetic heterogeneity, South Africa also has a highly admixed population, which allows a broader range of patient samples when testing new therapies in the laboratory. This puts the ICMM in a strategic position for generating impactful research which can compete internationally with research performed with samples from much more homogenous populations.