Stellenbosch University unveils world-class Biomedical Research Institute to advance healthcare in Africa

BMRI at Stellenbosch University, SA

Stellenbosch University (SU), South Africa, has unveiled a Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI), a world-class facility that places the university at the forefront of biomedical research on the African continent.

The R1.2 billion ($66 million) facility is one of the most advanced of its kind in the southern hemisphere, with cutting-edge facilities and extensive research capacity. It houses more than 500 biomedical researchers and students, including some of the world's leading scientists in bioinformatics, tuberculosis, neuroscience, and urology.

The BMRI's research has a decidedly African focus, aiming to understand the genetic and biomolecular basis of diseases afflicting South Africa and the rest of the continent. Its scientists conduct research that translates into discoveries that help improve the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of illnesses affecting the people of Africa.

The facility's immense value was recognised before its completion in 2023, with high-profile visitors, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, coming to view the facility in 2022.

The BMRI's potential was further endorsed when SU's Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), located in the BMRI, was selected by the World Health Organisation as a partner-member of the first Covid mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub.

It boasts numerous state-of-the-art laboratories, including the largest biosafety level 3 laboratory and fully automated biorepository in Africa, lecture and conference theatres equipped with the latest audio-visual technology, and large modern dissection halls engineered to minimise formaldehyde exposure. The BMRI was also awarded a 4-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

“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 result in the next generation of successful scientists," said Prof Elmi Muller, Dean of SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. “The BMRI will be a game changer for healthcare in Africa and is true evidence of using breakthrough science to improve lives."

The BMRI also hosts a Bioinformatics hub, electron microscopy laboratories, proteomics and flow cytometry services (FACS) laboratories and a Medical Morphological Learning Centre.

Photo courtesy / SU

Article by Jed Mwangi