The launch of its new state-of-the-art Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI) places Stellenbosch University (SU) at the forefront of biomedical sciences on the African continent.
The BMRI is a world-class biomedical research complex on par with the best in the world and is unparalleled, not only on the African continent, but the entire southern hemisphere, in terms of its cutting-edge facilities and extensive research capacity.
The BMRI, situated on SU’s Tygerberg Campus in Cape town, is being inaugurated over the next week.
“The realisation of the BMRI resonates with SU’s vision of being Africa’s leading research-intensive university with the objective of being globally recognised for our excellence in innovation to advance knowledge in service of society,” says Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor.
The facility houses more than 500 biomedical researchers and students, including some of the world’s foremost scientists in the fields of bioinformatics, tuberculosis, neuroscience, and urology. The leading-edge research emanating from the facility has a decidedly African focus and seeks to understand the genetic and biomolecular basis of diseases afflicting South Africa and the rest of the African continent.
“Scientists at the BMRI conduct research that translates into discoveries that help improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of illnesses affecting the people of South Africa and the rest of Africa,” says Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Vice Dean: Research and Internationalisation of SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), where the BMRI is based.
Construction of this R1,2 billion facility (approximately US$ 66 million) commenced in 2018 and was completed in 2023 – despite major challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The planning and design of this multifaceted complex followed a future-focussed approach resulting in a high-performance research hub that is modular, functional and sustainable.
The BMRI boasts numerous state-of-the-art laboratories, including the largest (600m2) biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory and fully automated biorepository in Africa, lecture and conference theatres equipped with the latest audio-visual technology, and large modern dissection halls custom-engineered to minimise formaldehyde exposure. The BMRI was also awarded a 4-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa.
“The research conducted in the BMRI builds on SU’s commitment to impactful research which takes into account the natural environment, health, human security as well as systems and technologies for the future. At the heart of our scientific endeavours, is the challenge to be locally relevant and globally competitive,” says Prof Sibusiso Moyo, SU Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies.
The immense value of the BMRI was recognised even before its completion in 2023, and high-profile visitors, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, came to view the facility in 2022. The facility’s potential was further endorsed when SU’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), located in the BMRI, was selected by the WHO as a partner-member of the first Covid mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub.
“The investment in the BMRI will allow significant human capacity development through training some of the best students from the continent and exposing them to extensive national and international research networks to results in a next generation of successful scientists,” says Prof Elmi Muller, FMHS Dean. “The BMRI will be a game changer for healthcare in Africa and is true evidence of using breakthrough science to improve lives.”