Zimbabwe Backs Nanotechnology As Route to New Drugs

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Cape Town — The Zimbabwean government has shown signs of embracing nanotechnology, earmarking it for extensive funding from the science ministry’s 2013 budget for new programmes.

According to Rungano Karimanzira, director of commercialisation of research and development at the ministry, 60 per cent of the new programme funding has been allocated to nanotechnology – a move announced with the unveiling of the national budget last month (16 November).

After years of political instability and international isolation, Zimbabwe now aims to revive science and use nanotechnology to research and produce drugs, particularly treatments for tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS.

Nanotechnology has far-reaching benefits for livelihoods and economies, Karimanzira tells SciDev.Net.

The country’s first national nanotechnology programme was launched in October by science and technology development minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei during the opening of the Zimbabwe Nanotechnology Centre (ZINC) at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Dzinotyiwei said the programme will focus on developing medicinal drugs, and will identify and undertake studies in nanomedicine geared towards bringing benefits to the entire country.

“We hope that we can ultimately dedicate around US$1 million to the nanotechnology programme,” he said.

Charles Maponga, director of the University of Zimbabwe’s School of Pharmacy and head of the nanotechnology programme, says the government had spent more than US$160,000 on renovating the nanotechnology laboratory, establishing its coordination committee and supporting postgraduate research fellowships.

Maponga also explains that the mobilisation of funding from international donors and local companies will be accompanied by efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of nanotechnology among key stakeholders such as policymakers and private sector investors.

“The aim of the ZINC programme, operating as part of the national nanotechnology programme, is to refocus research efforts towards nanotechnology to enhance the country’s development,” Maponga tells SciDev.Net.

The university will team up with the Chinhoyi University of Technology in northern Zimbabwe to work on nanomedicine programmes focused on TB and HIV/AIDS.

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