South Africa: Novartis boosts skills of local healthcare research scientists

Monday, 22 October 2012: In a bid to enhance the skills of local scientists and invest in clinical and scientific development in South Africa, pharmaceutical company Novartis  is sponsoring a cutting-edge Clinical Science Workshop at the University of Stellenbosch, as well as an intensive three-month internship programme at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.  

The Clinical Science Workshop will be held from 22-23 October at the Tygerberg Campus, while the three month Novartis Next Generation Scientist Program is held annually in Basel, Switzerland.

With a presence in 140 countries, research at Novartis is focused on discovering and developing innovative new medicines to treat disease and improve human health. The company’s goal is to positively change the practice of medicine for patients around the world.

The Clinical Science Workshop at Stellenbosch University is an annual event that brings together postgraduate students, practicing clinicians and academic staff who are interested in the application of epidemiology, biostatistics, modelling and simulation in clinical research.

Novartis believes South Africa has the potential to be one of the top five clinical research countries in the world because of its diverse population and disease profile. But in order to capitalise on this potential, the technical infrastructure, skills base, as well as regulatory environment needs to support the development of a clinical research industry.

The 2012 workshop will include biologics as specific examples to introduce advanced epidemiology concepts and their application to epidemiological research.

The audience will also be updated on the fast growing science of modelling and simulation for ‘getting the dose right’ and ‘giving the right dose to the right patient’ and its applicability to drug development and regulatory approval. The workshop will provide the opportunity for students to practice what has been learnt by modelling dose selection scenarios.

Another hot topic is the ethical considerations applied in drug development and their applicability to research physicians and practicing clinicians, particularly the development of biologics for niche populations.

Understanding how to consistently approach a drug’s benefit-risk evaluation will be illustrated using a migraine indication. In addition, a benefit-risk evaluation will be constructed in real time with the audience using a readily available drug.

In an initiative to build scientific and leadership capability in emerging countries, Novartis sponsors the Novartis Next Generation Scientist Program, an intensive internship programme for talented and motivated research scientists from emerging countries. The three-month programme is hosted at the company’s site in Basel, Switzerland, and is designed to foster both scientific and professional development.

Guided by Novartis mentors, the interns work on a jointly-agreed upon, pre-competitive scientific or clinical project and also participate in a leadership development programme designed to enhance their decision-making and communication skills.

The programme provides interns with an opportunity to enrich their education by working on a research project of interest to their local scientific and clinical communities as well as augmenting their scientific capabilities through seminars, journal clubs, discussion forums, and various educational courses.

These initiatives are all part of Novartis’ commitment to enhancing scientific and clinical research expertise and in so doing, deliver innovative healthcare solutions in partnership with local academic institutions and the government to help patients live long, healthy lives.