Research into developing manufacturing methods to produce cheap antiretrovirals in Africa has been highlighted on World Aids Day by The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The research has investigated the use of enzymes not previously used in the manufacture of antiretrovirals (ARVs) to create a cheap pathway for converting 5-methyluridine to thymidine.
It is hoped that this more economically viable pathway will lead to the establishment of ARV active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing facilities in South Africa.
Dr Moira Bode, who leads the research team, said: “There are currently no ARV APIs produced in South Africa. The fact that they are not produced locally means that we’re always at the mercy of other countries if we don’t have our own supply.”
The establishment of a local manufacturing industry would require governmental assistance in the form of tax breaks, assistance in setting up and initial co-investment, according to Bode.
If such a programme was initiated Bode feels the benefits would amount to more than the widespread availability of cheaper ARVs, adding: “It would be such a boost for scientists to know that there is a viable pharmaceutical industry and it would stimulate South African research in that area.”
The manufacturing method is now being developed by Arvir Technologies, a South Africa-based start-up biotech, which believes that its pathway has significant advantages over existing processes.
Avir estimates that manufacture would be 30 to 50 per cent cheaper using its method, which does not require the costly separation of stereoisomers.