UKZN Students Visit Technology Innovation Agency’s Bioprocessing Platform
The biotechnology platform of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) at Umbogintwini recently hosted 175 third year students from the Microbiology Department in the School of Life Sciences as well as 10 demonstrators and two UKZN staff members.
Field trips to industries/facilities employing biotechnological and/or microbiological processes form part of the practical component of the Microbial Processing module.
The bioprocessing platform which opened in 2007, provides services at a reduced cost to entrepreneurs thus lowering the business risk to a project and the TIA.
During the visit students were addressed on topics including technical support, skills development, innovation, entrepreneurship, commericalisation, access to diagnostics opportunities in resource poor communities and scientific collaborations to enable delivery of affordable, rapid diagnostics technologies and reagents for clients.
The talks were complemented by a tour of the low humidity, molecular and protein laboratories at the Institute of Diagnostic Research. The students could not enter the Hybridoma laboratory due to the strict gowning procedures required, however they were shown pictures of the equipment and the processes undertaken. This was followed by a tour of the Analytical and the Microbiology laboratory where students were exposed to different equipment such as the HPLC, GC, Fluorescent spectrophotometer, biosafety cabinet, ultrafreezer, and phase contrast microscope.
The students were also shown the general procedures such as chemical storage, disposal of different waste streams and SHE processes, while at the fermentation suites they saw a bioreactor in operation.
TIA’s Ms Elaine Ram said: ‘The Bioprocessing Platform takes pleasure in hosting future researchers and entrepreneurs and through these visits, hopes to have planted a seed that will steer these young minds to invention and innovation.’
Manager of the agency Mr Halalisani Gumede said the Bioprocessing Platform was delighted to expose young UKZN scientists to technology in action. ‘We encourage and support such initiatives where students are given hands on experience to the operations of the platform.’
UKZN’s Dr Roshini Govinden said: ‘I am extremely grateful to the TIA for accommodating such a large class. I took my first class there in 2010 and have returned every year. The students are very excited to hear from the various tenants of the platform and see the early steps of product development – from the laboratory to small pilot scale assessments prior to marketing. The more adventurous students are encouraged to believe that if they have good ideas there is some avenue that they can access to assess feasibility of their innovation as well as source funding to explore their ideas.’
- Leena Rajpal