International Atomic Energy Agency director visits UP-led Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRi) construction site

Posted on November 21, 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director of Division Africa, Professor Shaukat Abdulrazak, recently visited the construction site of the Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRI) main centre, which is led by the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Health Sciences and Steve Biko Academic Hospital. NuMeRI is part of the Department of Science and Technology’s South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).

NuMeRI aims to be a first-world-class medical imaging and theranostics facility dedicated to drug development and clinical research, well-equipped with a cyclotron, a GMP Radiopharmacy production facility, and cutting-edge pre-clinical imaging modalities. The centre will also boast a commercial cyclotron and GMP radiopharmacy. 

NuMeRI is being built strategically at the Steve Biko Academic hospital, with a track record in quality tertiary healthcare provision and community involvement. The hospital is also home to some of the country's leading medical experts. 

NuMeRI CEO and Head of the Nuclear Medicine Department at UP and Steve Biko Academic Hospital Professor Mike Sathekge led the delegation that included representatives from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the IAEA, W230, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, NTP Radioisotopes SOC Ltd, a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), and Steve Biko Academic Hospital. 

Representatives from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the International Atomic Energy Agency, W230, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, NTP Radioisotopes SOC Ltd, a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and Steve Biko Academic Hospital recently visited the NuMeRi main centre.

Representatives from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the International Atomic Energy Agency, W230, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, NTP Radioisotopes SOC Ltd, a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and Steve Biko Academic Hospital recently visited the NuMeRi main centre.

Prof Sathekge appealed to all stakeholders to support the facility. "We are happy to have won the award to host the NuMeRi main centre. Importantly, collaborative partnership in an inclusive approach will enable us to deliver comprehensive cancer care to our patients. Our vision is to establish relationships that will ensure that we deliver on our commitment to contribute to developing therapies that address the national priority disease.”

The delegation explored the current NuMeRI Modular PET/CT centre and the construction site that will be equipped with a research cyclotron, a research GMP radiopharmacy production facility, a commercial cyclotron, a commercial GMP radiopharmacy production facility, plus state-of-the-art pre-clinical and clinical imaging modalities. A meeting with several key stakeholders in the NuMeRi construction project promptly followed the site visit.

Set out to increase access to cancer care and treatment, supporting the IAEA’s Rays of Hope for Cancer Care, the centre will enable therapeutics and diagnostics development, for both communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Speaking at the site, Prof Abdulrazak commended NuMeRi as part of the country's research development infrastructure and urged all stakeholders to deepen partnerships that would strengthen NuMeRi. He pledged to partner with NuMeRi to enable capacity through collaborative initiatives in transdisciplinary research, fellowships and training. 

"We see NuMeRi as a huge training opportunity. Our vision is to see nuclear medicine experts or oncologists coming together to share ideas. Experts will collaborate to understand the current situation, understand what is coming in the future, and prepare the next generation and how our curricula should be able to address the needs of the industry," he said. Prof Abdulrazak facilitates IAEA technical cooperation in 46 countries in Africa, where he is also tasked with assisting member states with improving radiation safety and nuclear security worldwide. 

- Author Sindisiwe Kubeka
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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