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The South African Isotope Facility (SAIF), supported and funded by the Department of Science and
Innovation (DSI), will be unveiled on Friday by Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister Dr.
The administration stated that SAIF is a reaction to the expanding challenge, with cancer predicted
to overtake heart disease as the main cause of death on the African continent by 2030.
SAIF, managed by the department’s entity – the National Research Foundation (NRF) – is a flagship
programme at iThemba LABS in Cape Town.
“The facility will conduct advanced research and training capacity, as well as increase the production
capacity for radioisotopes, including new-generation novel radioisotopes. In addition, SAIF has
acquired a dedicated cyclotron with associated infrastructure for producing radioisotopes, thus
freeing the existing separated sector cyclotron for full-time research and training,” said Nzimande.
Using radioisotope therapy, cancer is treated by selectively killing malignant cells while minimising
harm to neighbouring healthy cells.
For more over 30 years, IThemba LABS has produced radioisotopes for the local and global nuclear
medicine and research communities.
One of the few locations in South Africa where the full manufacturing process for producing
pharmaceuticals is carried out. Production facilities, chemical processing, quality assurance and
control, sterile filling and packaging, end-to-end logistics, marketing, and sales are all included.
“The research facility also supplies certain medical isotopes for South African nuclear medicine
clinics, which cannot be supplied by anyone else or even imported now,” said the Minister.
Currently, about 5 000 South African patients a year benefit from the supply, and it is expected that
these numbers could increase by a factor of five to seven with the increase in production capacity
through SAIF and the availability of a new cohort of isotopes.