The economic impact of the proposed Cape Health Technology Park (CHTP), during its construction phase, could be transformational with R1.57 billion contribution to the economy; 2,000 direct jobs; and 4,165 indirect and induced jobs added to the national economy, based on a construction investment of R757 million. During its 10-year operational phase, the CHTP is set to contribute more than 13,000 jobs – and close to R10 billion – to the economy.

During the recent ‘Cape Town as Africa’s Pharma R&D and Healthtech Hubforum, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town, Ryan Ravens, said that Cape Town is ideally positioned for the CHTP because of its four excellent universities and academic hospitals, sound infrastructure and a world-class international airport offering easy access to Africa. The next step is to realise this potential for the socio-economic benefit of the region and country.

The African continent’s pharmaceutical market is expected to grow between $40 billion and $65 billion by 2020 – after having grown 342.5% in 10 years by 2013 – due to Africa’s economic growth and expanding middle class. This, together with leading scientific research and the fact that 43% of medical technology start-ups are in the Western Cape, have led the Department of Science and Technology and Western Cape Government, in partnership with Wesgro, to investigate the business case and viability of a CHTP. Its key objective would be to enable and support health technology innovation in the Western Cape.

Wesgro’s CHTP Project Manager, Craig Landsberg, said at the event: “The benefits to knowledge based, innovation focused companies in co-locating at a world-class facility, where there is access to value-adding technical and business support services as well as collaboration opportunities, has been proven in many parts of the world.  Furthermore, such facilities attract other value chain players and professional services providers, which create an enabling ecosystem that benefits the sector and stimulates economic growth.”

“If successful, it also acts as a catalyst to formalise or further augment nascent health sector clusters.  Foreign investors are encouraged by structured public-private partnerships, which characterises the CHTP, and hence we anticipate that international healthcare players will take an interest in the CHTP and the region.  The envisaged timelines for an operational ‘greenfields’ facility scoped to satisfy a 5 – 7 year demand is early to mid-2018.  However, owing to the keen interest experienced in the CHTP and the need for certain players to locate to the CHTP as soon as they can possibly be accommodated, we are considering a phased approach where we might get going a lot sooner than the mid-2018 timeframe.  In terms of location, the CHTP is ideally located in proximity to Biovac, the vaccines manufacturer, as the Biovac research and development (R&D) division is a potential key, sizeable anchor tenant of the CHTP,” continued Landsberg.

In discussing international best practice, chairman of the board of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore, Prof Paul Herrling, considered the city’s success and said: “Even before 2000, the Singapore government launched the Singapore Biomedical Science Initiative which, by 2011, had attracted more than 30 of the world’s leading biomedical sciences companies to grow the sector by 30%. For Cape Town to attract international pharma companies and establish a successful pharma research and development (R&D) hub as Singapore has done, it needs to offer access to talent; a superior research environment – which spans basic sciences, research hospitals, and biotech; proximity to patients and their doctors; acceptable animal experimentation laws; good Intellectual Property (IP) protection; and – given the long term nature of the investments you seek to attract to the region – a stable political environment.”

Pharmaceutical firms investing in drug discovery and R&D do so by means of massive financial investments that are typically committed over extended periods of up to 15 years.

Founder and Director of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), Prof Kelly Chibale, explained: “Big pharma companies are commercial entities that serve shareholders, generate jobs, contribute to tax revenues, and make the critical long term investments necessary for successful pharmaceutical R&D. Their commercial success is integral to successful drug discovery and the associated socio-economic benefits that the Cape, South Africa, and Africa requires.”

“Sound infrastructure and a business friendly environment are strategic imperatives for such firms, while a sustainable CHTP will also need adequate talent, capacity, and support services. We are fortunate in that much of this already exists in the Cape and that so many key decision makers in the public and private sectors actively support this initiative,” continued Chibale.

Ravens concluded by saying: “The regional business community understands the need to foster long term, sustainable growth for socio-economic improvement. For this reason we are also committed to building sustainable regional competitiveness through innovation. Accelerate Cape Town looks forward to furthering the public and private sector collaboration that is necessary to help get this important project underway.”

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