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First SA Black Empowered Clinical Research Organisation Launched Today

Johannesburg, Thursday 02 August 2007: Joint partners, the South African Government and private enterprise today announced the launch of the first ever locally owned, black empowered, full service clinical research organisation.

This initiative has been set up through a collaboration between LIFElab, the East Coast Biotechnology Innovation Centre (a trust established in 2002 by the Department of Science & Technology to implement the National Biotechnology Strategy) in conjunction with Batswadi Pharmaceuticals, a black empowered innovative company launched last year with a focus on biotechnology. ACRO - African Clinical Research Organisation - will service the biotechnology sector, donor funders, non-governmental organisations, research institutions, pharmaceutical and medical device companies and the government.

"The launch of ACRO is a turning point in South Africa's research and development. For the first time, research findings need not sit on the shelf, gathering dust, because of a lack of resources to commercialise them. The launch of ACRO confirms government's commitment to research and development and will help encourage and build much-needed human and infrastructural scientific capacity", says Dr Blessed Okole, Chief Executive Officer of LIFElab.

"Batswadi is delighted to partner with Lifelab and the Department of Science and Technology to form ACRO. Clinical research is a vital component to any thriving medical industry. Innovation is the name of the game and through innovation we can address the many health related issues that plague South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa. We are faced with diseases that devastate lives which must be addressed and through effective quality research, these can now be more efficiently addressed," says Christopher Whitfield, Chief Executive Officer of Batswadi Pharmaceuticals. "Batswadi's primary focus is to increase Africa's access to innovation, and our partnership with Lifelab seeks to put Africa in the lead as a primary destination for high quality, cost effective, cutting edge research".

ACRO will focus initially on research into infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, with other disease areas to be added to the portfolio in due course. Excellent clinical research facilities for these three disease areas are located in South Africa and Africa.

ACRO will be spearheaded by Mary-Ann Richardson who is no newcomer to the field of clinical research, having previously worked for one of the world's leading global clinical research organizations, as well as having chaired the South African Clinical Research Association (SACRA) in 2004.

"Clinical research is being encouraged and promoted in African institutions as local scientists work to find solutions to local health issues," says Mary-Ann Richardson. "It is ACRO's mission to promote access to innovative medical products, services and technologies throughout Africa," she says.

Biopharmaceutical and medical device product development is increasingly complex and expensive.

ACRO will guarantee competitive costing to locally owned Biotech Companies and will focus on Phase I-IV clinical trials, taking research from early drug-safety trials (Phase I) to managing more research efforts that take place after a product's regulatory approval (Phase IV)1.

"We must not forget that clinical research is an essential part of a thriving knowledge based industry. Already we see other developing countries such as India, Brazil and most of central Eastern Europe excelling at clinical research", Christopher Whitfield explains.

As the first full-service BEE clinical research organisation, ACRO is structured in accordance with the Government's National and Health Empowerment Strategies. ACRO will be working with multinational organisations to deliver clinical research of the highest standard, whilst contributing to their empowerment strategies.

"ACRO aims to develop our local research capacity and build sustainable partnerships to facilitate local discoveries and innovation," Mary-Ann Richardson says. "We will be able to offer our clients the benefit of our regional and scientific expertise, thereby creating tailored programmes to meet their needs," she concludes.

Issued on behalf of the African Clinical Research Organisation (ACRO) by:
Leigh Hopewell
The Write Agency
011 467 5368 / 083 264 6563

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